THE PROSPECTS for the national sorghum crop are entering a critical period, following a near record dry January over many key production zones.
While there are likely to be a number of success stories with early sown sorghum on the Darling Downs, late sown crops in that area are struggling and need rain urgently to make even average yields.
Further north, while the planting window is still well and truly open, Central Queensland is yet to receive a true opening rain and farmers there will look to see whether tropical rain due to hit North Queensland this week, pushes down to their region.
In NSW, there was not a big plant due to a lack of moisture and crops that did go in speculatively are generally struggling.
Brendan Taylor, AgForce Grains president said while there would be some good crops about, initial crop estimates of up to 2 million tonnes now looked on the high side.
“There’s still time in Central Queensland but if they don’t get a good season then we could well be struggling to get 1.5m tonnes, which will put pressure on already tight grain supplies.
Mr Taylor, who farms at Warra, on the Darling Downs, said in his own area it was a tale of two crops.
“The early sown stuff that went in through October has done really well, it had a good rain on it in December and even though it has been dry in January it looks like it will finish OK, with quality the major concern,” Mr Taylor said.
“The later sown crop, that went in on the back of the December rain, on the other hand, is really doing it tough.
“Realistically, we’d want to see a good rain in the next fortnight for it to make average yields.”
Further south, it is a similarly difficult season, with most parts of NSW’s summer cropping region doing it tough, with high temperatures and a lack of rain.
Mr Taylor said there was a lot of talk about downgrades to sorghum 2 quality, due to the tough finish for early sown crops.
He said at present sorghum was around $360 a tonne delivered Darling Downs, a $40/t discount on barley, at $400/t, and $90/t to feed wheat, $450/t.
“We’re hearing around a $20/t discount down to sorghum 2, which brings prices to $330/t, which is still not bad historically, but the issue will be finding buyers.
Mr Taylor said he was concerned, if there did not look to be much sorghum about, that end users would not bother switching their feed rations from white grains to sorghum if they were just going to have to switch back again in a couple of months.
Peter McMeekin, Grain Brokers Australia, said it was historically difficult to move sorghum 2.
“Most stockfeed consumers have traditionally been very reluctant to buy sorghum 2,” Mr McMeekin said.
“Some take it, but many don't. If they do, it is only in relatively small quantities and at a significant discount.”