Grain growers get price rise

WA GRAIN growers have received a pleasant Christmas present with strong prices sure to offset some of the pain from this season’s poor harvest.

Last year premium grade wheat was worth $192 a tonne and so far it has been fetching $204.55 per tonne.

A strong world barley market, market shortage for canola, Europe’s BSE virus scare, which is linked with mad cow disease, and a strengthening Euro has helped boost prices for those grains.

Malting and feed barley estimates increased $7 a tonne to $212-$222 per tonne and $170-$180 a tonne respectively.

Lupin prices jumped $13 a tonne to $190 to $200 per tonne – again affected by the BSE scare which also helped increase Chicago soy meal values.

The European Union Commission has endorsed lupins as a safe food ingredient with its “standard” label rather than the “novel” label that was previously applied.

The Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare has allowed lupins to become an ingredient of Japanese soy sauce.

It takes about 330,000 tonnes of soybeans to satisfy Japan’s annual one billion litre soy sauce consumption. Lupins can be used as a soybean substitute, producing a very similar tasting product.

Fears about genetically-modified canola from Canada and Europe’s BSE scare pushed the canola indicator up $5 per tonne to between $305 and $325 a tonne.

A dry winter means WA’s wheat crop will be down nearly four million tonnes on last year’s record. Ironically, last year’s bumper crop met the lowest wheat price for 30 years.

While the wheat tonnage was down, grain quality was up, particularly in terms of protein.

Australia’s wheat crop will be down on last year due to WA’s poor return, the floods in New South Wales and a poor season in Queensland offsetting a record crop in South Australia and Victoria enjoying a good season. But this will help to boost prices because Australia’s wheat seller AWB Limited can be more selective in which markets it targets.

Reports that a world glut of wheat will hurt Australia’s wheat price are not strictly the case.

Stockpiles of soft red winter wheat in the US and Europe are responsible for the glut. However, this wheat is mainly used for stock feed, while Australian wheat is more highly sought by millers.

A poor winter season in the US could also help WA farmers.

AWB WA regional manager Peter Hobbs said if there was a hiccup in the northern hemisphere’s winter growing program, there would be a spike for Australian wheat sales.

“We’re selling this crop over the next 12 months and the February to May period is our heavy shipping time. That’s when weather scares that lead to price spikes are prevalent in the northern hemisphere,” Mr Hobbs said.

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