Tough time for crops
Grains Research and Development Corporation’s Southern Panel chair John Bennett said growers were at a pivotal point in the season when it came to deciding whether to continue with growing their crops or cutting them for hay.
Mr Bennett spoke to Country News at Numurkah’s GrainCorp site as part of the group’s annual spring tour and said the dry conditions were making it tricky for growers.
‘‘The dry is having a big effect in Victoria and it’s actually creeping south as well,’’ he said.
‘‘I’m noticing in the last couple of weeks people have had the prospects of a slightly lessthan-average season.
‘‘They’ve seen their crops actually going backwards so a lot of people are actually considering cutting their crop for hay, especially with the fodder demand because the fodder reserves have been depleted over the last 12 months.’’
Mr Bennett explained why the group was travelling through the area.
‘‘The idea is that the GRDC panels job is to provide relevant research and actually capture the ideas and issues as well as representing farmers,’’ he said.
‘‘So for us it’s engaging with farmers in their own paddock, especially with panel members coming from the Eyre Peninsula and Tasmania.
‘‘So it’s a good thing to come to the north and see what issues actually affect farmers in the north-east.
‘‘It’s a learning experience really. We’ve come to listen, we have come to see whether our investments are actually working, to see what we can do better, and what are the current issues?
‘‘I think we are right in that pivotal period at the moment where we’ve got frost, we’ve got lack of moisture and crops are actually going backwards and I think we are in that pivotal period where a lot of crop might turn into hay and yields will go back quite dramatically too.
‘‘So it’s really a difficult time to estimate crop yields.’’
Mr Bennett said the current dry conditions reminded him of recent years where he lived.
‘‘We’ve had a number of these years in my part of the world in western Victoria,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ve had 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2015, so it’s nothing new.
‘‘I would certainly draw a similarity with a number of those years we’ve had in the last decade.’’
The group also visited University of Melbourne’s Dookie Campus as part of the spring tour.
, by agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank, says this shift from a traditional bulk grain-handling network to a more disaggregated and flexible delivery system is taking place on the farm with increased on-farm storage and also at port, with direct loading, containerised grain exports and newer bulk terminal export capacity.
Describing it as ‘‘de-bulking’’, Rabobank senior grains and oilseeds analyst Cheryl Kalisch Gordon said the shift to investing in storage and handling alternatives was already well under way, with the process accelerated by rationalisation in the bulk grain-handling network.
While this rationalisation — including closure of up-country receival sites, replacement of multiple smaller or dated silos with single larger silos, and the upgrade and expansion of centralised sites — delivered efficiency gains with greater capacity utilisation, Dr Kalisch Gordon said it could reduce the ability of the bulk-handling system to segregate grain.
‘‘On the one hand, there is the option for farm businesses to ‘avoid bulk’ by investing in on-farm storage to respond to higher-value end markets,’’ she said.
‘‘Or, they can invest in efficiency gains to deliver into the high-volume, lowmargin international grains market via the bulk-handling network.’’
Either way, both of these alternatives required on-farm investment, she said.
‘‘But there is real opportunity for grain marketers and bulk handlers to work with grain farmers and be part of the new innovative solutions.’’
The report said structural changes onfarm and at export ports were also resulting in the movement of some grain supply out of bulk-handling networks.
‘‘On-farm capacity, in sealed storage, is currently sitting around 17 to 18 million tonnes, or the equivalent to 37 per cent of the total Australian winter and summer crop,’’ Dr Kalisch Gordon said.
‘‘With more farmers anticipated to engage in their own, longer marketing programs, the blending of grain, and with the interest in pulses and speciality crops continuing to grow, we forecast as much as 20 million tonnes of on-farm storage will be in use by 2025.’’
Hard choices . . . GRDC Southern Panel chair John Bennett says the current cropping season is at a critical decision-making point.