September 30, 2008


Large wheat crop in Australia's Queensland fuels logistics problems


Wheat production in Australia's Queensland state is forecast to reach 2 million tonnes this year, more than doubling from 910,000 tonnes last year, AgForce, a farmers lobby in Queensland, said Tuesday.


AgForce grains section president Lyndon Pfeffer said growers in the western Darling Downs and Maranoa regions in the southeast "are anticipating their best crop in more than a decade after good rain on dryland crops and huge areas of irrigated wheat planted on land normally growing cotton."


However, concerns are mounting about the availability of transport and storage facilities, as the bumper 2.7 million-tonne national summer sorghum harvest is still occupying many silos and depots in the province, he said.


"It is clear the centralised system will be unable to handle the harvest and many growers are preparing private pad storage or joining the long waiting list for new on-farm silos," he said in a statement.


Grain storages in Queensland are still bulging with the sizable remains of a record sorghum harvest, which has proven difficult to export due to a volatile market and a high Australian dollar, "so it is likely we will see major holdups in delivering the winter crop in the coming months," he said.


The annual wheat harvest gets underway in the coming weeks and is usually complete by early November.


Transportation problems are also likely. Government-owned Queensland Rail is offering three trains for the movement of grain out of Queensland storages, but a lack of locomotives and staffing issues is resulting in erratic services, he said.


"The lack of reliable transport is the biggest issue now facing the Queensland grains industry," he said.


"Demurrage on the average grain ship moving wheat from Queensland ports is A$50,000 a day. If a grain trader can't guarantee a train to load a ship they won't risk the A$50,000 a day in demurrage on a ship sitting at port waiting," he said.


US$1 = AU$1.2376 (September 30, 2008)

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