The 2021 Australian grain harvest has been hampered by adverse weather events in many parts of Australia, ramping up the pressure on growers.
November has received near-record rainfall, with more than 150 millimetres falling across parts of New South Wales, flooding in parts of the Lachlan Valley, and farmers on the Liverpool Plains unable to harvest crops due to flooded paddocks. Local grain grower Andrew Watson described the season as being worse than a drought year.
“For those that had a complete wipe out, you might as well have had a drought. But with a drought you wouldn’t have spent as much money growing the crop,” he said.
“It’s not just rainfall, it’s going underwater, having a swim. It’s pretty heartbreaking,” he added.
If able to harvest his wheat, Mr Watson expects it to be downgraded to feed quality at a loss of $500 per tonne; in a year when fertiliser and herbicides have been at a premium.
Early season indications strongly suggested that the agriculture industry would exceed $70 billion in annual production for the first time on record. However, this prediction will now have to be significantly revised; due to late seasonal conditions.
“It’s been extraordinary weather all around the country, all the cropping areas have received very untimely rain,” said Richard Heath, Executive Director of the Australian Farm Institute.
“The fact that it was a cool temperate spring had added to the crop yields being so good, but the flipside is now we’ve gotten into the harvest period and the La Niña is really expressing itself and we’ve gotten all this rain.”
WA Grain Growers Experience Yield Loss in 2021 Australian Grain Harvest Season
Grain growers in South Australia have dealt with two hailstorms and a wet start to harvest. Farmers in Western Australia have experienced significant frost damage with yield losses of up to 35% for wheat and 15% for barley. Good growing conditions, including the wettest year on record, make frost losses even more frustrating.
A reduction in grain protein levels is concerning the world grain market, which was looking to Australia to solve the shortfall left by grain-growing countries in the Northern Hemisphere.
“In Western Australia this year, nearly half of the crop is standard white wheat,” said Ole Houe, director of advisory services at IKON Commodities. “In a normal year, average standard wheat is just 25% of the overall output.”
Supply shortages have seen wheat prices rise to the best in almost a decade. The gap between APW and ASW is currently at $40 a tonne, four times the usual difference.
La Niña Confirmed for Australian Summer
The Bureau of Meteorology officially confirmed that Australia is entering into a La Niña phase until at least January 2022.
Eastern and Northern states will experience a cooler wetter summer with an increased risk of flooding and more storms and cyclones than usual.
The La Niña event at the beginning of 2021 resulted in more than 65,000 insurance claims with a total value of $1 billion.