Growers should target grain price spikes

28 Apr, 2016 01:00 AM
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GROWERS need to watch the market for price spikes rather than rely on selling in harvest to make good on this season's crop, according to marketers.

Tough conditions for marketers to sell grain in an over-supplied market has caused the price drift which may be bottoming out.

But this doesn't mean there will be price spikes that last as long or reach the levels some may expect compared to recent years for this coming season.

CBH marketing and trading general manager Jason Craig said a spike of $10 to $15 in the wheat price last week were caused by gains in the Chicago market.

But a stronger Australian dollar nearing US80 cents softened the benefits to WA growers, he said.

"The market was expecting US65c and now we've been heading towards more the 80c," he said.

The lower Australian dollar has been softening the blow in the market and Mr Craig said WA growers were lucky the dollar had not been hovering near parity.

Buyer behaviour is also playing havoc with prices as high levels of stock remain in most grains around the world.

Bunge WA regional manager Christopher Tyson said low demand for grain out of WA, which is more expensive than origins such as Ukraine or Russia, was to blame.

He said the market was behaving as if it was coming from a large short position and expected further declines.

"We have moved well and truly into a weather driven market in the northern hemisphere," Mr Tyson said.

"Recent floods in parts of Argentina have sent the market into a spin as potential crop losses weigh on the market."

He said that as the market scrambled to understand the total damage buyers were aggressively buying to ensure they had enough stock.

"This has seen high levels of volatility in the market over the past week which has provided upside in the wheat market and opportunities in the local WA market," he said.

Emerald Grain WA general manager Dick McCagh said this market volatility was an example of how WA growers could sell off old season grain or forward sell.

'"I think growers have been expecting huge spikes like they've seen the past couple of years and the market just hasn't gone there," he said.

"The past couple of years has been really competitive and this year it's a lot more cautious."

While growers have avoided a completely flat market by holding onto grain for their ideal price, Mr McCagh said growers needed to be aware of CBH's September deadline for selling last season's grain before storage and handling charges kick in.

"There's some good financial benefits to carrying grain through to July and selling into next season," he said.

"I think it's prudent for growers to look out and see what spikes are available.

"Fundamentally on the grain front there's just nothing there at present to say it's going to improve but hopefully we've hit the bottom (with prices)."

Weather conditions around the world will be worth watching according to all three marketers, as buyers are only forward buying for short periods.

"In terms of demand, certainly for the old crop, most of our customers in wheat are buying very much hand to mouth," Mr Craig said.

"They're buying basically a couple of months out and therefore the market has really just been going down over time.

"We're seeing a lot of competing origins into South East Asia.

"We're seeing increases in Ukrainian imports and Argentinean imports that are somewhere between $US30-$40 cheaper than Australian wheat."

Mr Craig said there was still a demand for Australian wheat, but on a lesser scale.

He said a break in northern hemisphere crops would be key.

"If we do see a lower crop estimate mostly in the northern hemisphere and if we do see some unseasonal weather in any of those places that could see the market increase," he said.

On home soil, WA's early break compared to relatively drier conditions on the east coast could affect prices.

"It could make some of our buyers a little bit nervous which could improve pricing," he said.

"Weather scares are going to be real opportunities for growers, this is supply driven and we need a few supply shocks to really see the market lift here and they're possible as there's still a long way to go."

He said growers should consider acting on opportunities which brought prices near their preferred levels.

Mr McCagh said as much as growers were struggling to find prices that suited their needs, marketers were searching for buyers who were only buying several months in advance.

"We can look at the futures and the Aussie dollar and so on, but we actually have to sell the physical grain and that's been a tight exercise," he said.

"There's plenty of stock around the world so we're fighting that and the cheap shipping freights around the world, on the back of the mining boom coming off, has made other countries a lot more competitive into our markets as well."

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