Cereal crops: Looking grim for grains

CEREAL crops in parts of Tasmania’s key growing areas are on a knife edge as growers wait for rain.

Dryland crops in the lower Midlands, Fingal Valley and the South-East are only just hanging on after very low winter and spring rainfall in many areas.

David Skipper from TAP Agrico said the next four weeks would be critical.

“It’s just hanging on and most of the farmers I talk to are nervous, but confident they will get their crops through,” he said.

“With each week that passes that confidence goes down.”

After a bumper crop last year, low prices at sowing time have seen less cereals planted in Tasmania this year.

However, prices have since soared by 25 per cent because of increasingly dry conditions in in Queensland and NSW.

Mr Skipper said the large number of cattle currently being fed grain interstate was also driving up demand.

Grain harvesting is starting in the Moree district in NSW.

“That dryness that we were seeing in Queensland and northern NSW is creeping down and with these heatwaves and frosts it’s starting to affect crops down through the Riverina and Mallee,” he said.

“What we’ve got now is a very nervous domestic market wondering what’s going to happen with these crops.”

While grain prices have seen a rise in recent months, Mr Skipper said high global supplies would put a ceiling on Australian prices overall.

In Tasmania most northern and western areas have received good recent rains.

“The state can really be divided into two at the moment,” Mr Skipper said.

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“Farmers in the North-West are saying they don’t want any more, but once you get south of Campbell Town and Ross it’s not looking good.”

Mr Skipper said the impact of the dry on Tasmanian crops was yet to be seen but the risk of frost damage was another concern for the season.

 

“In 2006-2007 we had a lot of crops damaged after a big frost late in the season. With it being so dry that certainly would be in the back of growers’ minds,” he said.

Along with lower crop yields, if dry conditions continue the demand for grain will increase as producers use it for supplementary stock feed.

“There is going to be some big demand for supplementary feed and we’re seeing that in some areas already,” he said.

“At the moment crops are hanging in there and every millimetre will help. As long as the rain comes in time they get these crops through but it will depend on what happens in the next four weeks.”

 

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