Australia’s wheat exports will prove even stronger than had been thought this season, officials said, lifting expectations for barley and canola too, although foreseeing retreats ahead assuming no repeat of bumper harvests.
Abares, Australia’s official commodities bureau, raised by 862,000 tonnes to 21.36m tonnes its forecast for the country’s wheat exports in 2020-21, on an October-to-September basis.
Exports at that level would be the country’s largest in four years, and the third biggest on record, besides more than double the 9.13m tonnes in shipments recorded last season, after a drought-hit harvest.
The upgrade reflected not just an increased harvest estimate, raised two weeks ago by Abares to 33.34m tonnes after rains boosted yields more than had been expected, but also a lag in Australian wheat prices below those of other origins, reflecting the improved harvest.
La Nina factor
“With a significant increase in supply in 2020-21, Australian wheat prices are now competitive compared with other origin wheat, providing an opportunity for Australia to regain market share in our traditional export markets,” the bureau said.
However, with Abares pencilling in a retreat to 25.0m tonnes in 2021-22, exports were forecasts falling back to 16.45m tonnes next season.
The bureau forecast “a return to more average yields from the record highs achieved in 2020-21, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria.
Nonetheless, following a “late-forming but moderate La Niña in 2020-21, production outcomes across much of the country for 2021-22 are more likely to be average to above average due to higher soil moisture levels at planting”.
For barley, Abares lifted its export forecast too for 2020-21, by 2.00m tonnes to 9.00m tonnes, on an improved harvest estimate – and despite the de facto ban on imports from China, historically Australia’s top customer of the grain.
“Despite being subject to China’s prohibitive import tariffs, barley exports from Australia are expected to remain competitive in international markets,” and indeed have “fallen below those of major competitors in the Black Sea Region and Europe.
“Australian barley has become more competitive in alternative markets, particularly in Saudi Arabia, which is the second largest importer of barley for animal feed after China,” the bureau said.
“Malting grade Australian barley has also become competitive in new markets, including Mexico for use in beer production.”
However, China’s import levies, and their knock-on impact in fostering a forecast 19.5% drop to Aus$235 per tonne in Australian feed barley prices this season, would spur a drop in output of the grain in 2021-22 of 3.43m tonnes to 9.66m tonnes.
“Import tariffs imposed by China on Australian barley are expected to result in a reduction in area planted in trade-exposed regions, particularly Western Australia,” Abares said, forecasting a retreat to 7.00m tonnes in shipments next season.
‘Expected to recover strongly’
For canola, the forecast for exports this season was lifted by 249,000 tonnes to a four-year high of 2.92m tonnes, supported by the global clamour for oilseed supplies.
“With continued high international prices,” and increased domestic production, “Australian canola exports are expected to recover strongly in the 2020-21 marketing year, increasing by 91%,” the bureau said.
And for next season, Australia’s “area planted to canola is likely to increase… due to stored soil moisture following above-average summer rainfall”, although assuming a return to a nearer-average yield, output will fall by 554,000 tonnes year on year to 3.50m tonnes.
Australia’s canola exports next season were pegged at 2.45m tonnes, remaining historically “high against a backdrop of stronger international demand for biofuels as economies recover from the impacts of Covid-19 related restrictions”.