From Northern Queensland to the deep south of the continent, Australian crop farmers are struggling with fickle weather conditions and locusts, making it frustratingly slow to get their crop in, and an in many cases, maintaining the quality that the 2010 season has so long promised.
Compared to the drought ravaged period over the last 10 years, the 2010 rains have continued long into October and November: a bitter pill to swallow, as record grain prices and bumper crops looked like making this season one of the best on record.
The moisture content in grain needs to be within the correct range when harvesting, and is also a criteria for pricing and quality. Furthermore, many harvestable crops will develop new shoots with excess soil moisture, reducing quality and value, a situation known as “shot grain.”
The only positive in many areas is that the rain is scattered, and even neighbouring farms are recording differences in rainfall, if any at all, ensuring some farmers are able to harvest their crops at the right time and reap the rewards, while others see their hard work and profits for the year leak away.
What makes it worse it that many farmers are financed to the hilt on forecasts of a great season, increasing their cropping area, and therefore costs in seeding, fertilising and harvesting.
Other crops such as grapes are also threatened by the late season rainfall, with fungal disease risk at an all time high in many grape-growing regions at this critical period of the vine and grape development.
Australian farmers can only hope the rains stay away for a few more weeks and the Chicago Board of Trade sustain workable pricing.