Sea­son’s sow­ing cam­paign

The Western Star - - RURAL WEEKLY - Tim Mur­ray

AN­ZAC Day is ap­proach­ing.

For many farm­ers na­tion­wide it rep­re­sents a tra­di­tional date to fol­low a dawn ser­vice and a quick game of two-up with an­other gam­ble – start­ing the sow­ing cam­paign.

Like this time last year, many re­gions are look­ing like there is not nearly enough mois­ture to sup­port a widescale plant.

This week the Bu­reau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy re­leased its most re­cent fore­casts for the com­ing months, with cli­mate out­looks pre­dict­ing most crop­ping re­gions will have a 50 per cent chance of above me­dian rain from May to July (see pic 1).

The ma­jor cli­matic in­flu­ence on this out­look comes from the like­li­hood of a de­vel­op­ing In­dian Ocean Dipole neg­a­tive through our win­ter.

A neg­a­tive IOD should be favourable to those look­ing for rain, as the rel­a­tively warm wa­ters off our north­west­ern coast cre­ates stronger west­erly winds and more cloudy con­di­tions, feed­ing mois­ture to the main­land.

This out­look is much more op­ti­mistic than 12 months ear­lier when fore­casts of a pos­i­tive IOD loomed as the sig­nif­i­cant threat for a dry win­ter.

The IOD is usu­ally less of a head­line grab­ber than the El Nino/La Nina phe­nom­e­non that fea­tures in many news ar­ti­cles. If last year is any­thing to go by, the IOD will have a sig­nif­i­cant in­flu­ence on our rain­fall dur­ing our win­ter months.

In 2017, a weak La Nina con­di­tion per­sisted for most farm­ers across the na­tion, how­ever they didn’t en­tirely ben­e­fit from the boun­ti­ful rains we usu­ally as­so­ciate with the ti­tle as the pos­i­tive IOD coun­tered it.

Cur­rently, most fore­cast­ers are tip­ping neu­tral con­di­tions in the Pa­cific this year and be­lieve it un­likely sea sur­face tem­per­a­tures will reach the thresh­olds of an El Nino or La Nina event.

The fore­casts have been heav­ily in­flu­enced by a warm body of wa­ter un­der the sub-sur­face (see pic 2), hav­ing seen a steady rise to the sur­face in re­cent months.

This warm body of wa­ter makes it more likely warm­ing will con­tinue through our win­ter months.

For the de­mand side, the ris­ing trade ten­sions be­tween US and China have been the big shock to global mar­kets this week.

On April 4, China’s Min­istry of Com­merce an­nounced its plan to im­pose 25 per cent du­ties on sev­eral US prod­ucts in­clud­ing wheat, corn, sorghum and soy­beans in re­tal­i­a­tion to a sim­i­lar pro­posal by the US on many Chi­nese prod­ucts.

The an­nounce­ment has cre­ated in­cred­i­bly volatile mar­kets glob­ally. This is par­tic­u­larly so for soy­beans, with more than half of all the US soy­beans ex­ports last year shipped to China.

Ma­te­rial im­pacts on our mar­kets are less likely. Aus­tralia will still need to price com­pet­i­tively ver­sus the other ap­proved ori­gins to pick up any of the 1 mil­lion met­ric tonne de­mand it has been do­ing each year.

As for sorghum and bar­ley, any ad­di­tional de­mand should have al­ready been pen­cilled in since anti-dump­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions ef­fec­tively stopped the US sorghum flow ear­lier this year.

The Aus­tralian wheat ex­port pace has re­cently looked slug­gish and it now seems near im­pos­si­ble to hit ABARES’ ex­port fore­cast of 16.8 mil­lion met­ric tonnes.

A 7 per cent tax ad­van­tage over our com­peti­tors has as­sisted re­cent feed wheat sales to the Philip­pines for May to July ship­ments, at values of US$245-250 CFR.

How­ever from Au­gust for­ward, the black sea new crop pric­ing in the low $220s CFR ap­pears too sharp for Aus­tralia to be con­nect­ing on these po­si­tions, de­spite the tax duty.

Other cru­cial ex­port des­ti­na­tions such as In­done­sia and Viet­nam have al­ready fallen be­hind tar­gets be­cause of the same chal­lenges and it will only be­come more chal­leng­ing in the sec­ond half of this year.

All this makes the next few weeks harder to pre­dict. If the wide­spread rain doesn’t even­tu­ate, the slow ex­port pace will quickly be for­got­ten. Do­mes­tic cal­cu­la­tions will take pri­or­ity and our pen­cils will need to be sharp­ened to com­pete in the sec­ond half of our year.


A graph dis­play­ing tem­per­a­tures in the Pa­cific Ocean.


A map show­ing the rain­fall per­cent­age pre­dic­tion from May to July.

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