Deregulation of Australia’s grains industry has provided both challenges and opportunities for Australia’s grain growers who now find themselves in the unique position of deciding who to sell their grain to and when. The new competitive market conditions have also seen farmers placing more importance on their equipment, as they strive to get through the harvest quicker, while delivering high quality grain samples.
Grower Brenton Vanstone, who runs a mixed cereals business at Wandearah East, 190 km north of Adelaide, decided to forward sell his grain to the AWB just prior to harvest last year to capitalise on the high prices. With a fleet of equipment including a Magnum 305, Magnum 220 and Maxxum 5130, Brenton crops 800 hectares of wheat, barley, oats, chickpeas and vetch, averaging 2.5 tonnes per hectare.
“I didn’t have a chance to sit down and look at all the players in the market, so I stuck with the AWB, contracting to the pool when the estimated return was $344 per tonne,” he said. “At the time the cash price was around $280 per tonne. But the cash price then went up to $320 per tonne so in retrospect, we should have waited.”
Like most growers, Brenton now plans to get serious about marketing following the harvest period. He factors grain selling into his farming program, and considers his marketing and sales options at seeding time. “It wasn’t something I had to worry about before. But selling is now something I need to consider much earlier rather than waiting until just prior to harvest. It’s a new ball game.”
Fellow grower Des Miguel, who runs a 7,000 hectare property at North Beacon, 360 km north east of Perth, took a different approach. Des averaged 2.2 tonnes per hectare last harvest with his Case IH Axial-Flow 2388, well up on the previous season’s drought affected yields of 0.1 tonnes per hectare.
Des paid his farm manager, Shane Sanders, to manage grain marketing and sales, in the end selling his harvest of 8,000 tonnes to three separate companies – the AWB, AgriCorp and Riverina. “We started selling in October and finished in February. It was a real gamble deciding who to sell to and I just didn’t have the time on top of harvest for the research. We paid Shane $1 per tonne for managing the job, so deregulation cost us $8,000.”
To make the most of the opportunities in a new market, clean grain samples and harvesting capacity have become even more important to farmers such as Des and Brenton. “A clean sample will ensure the best price, while getting through the harvest quickly will give growers the time they need to manage marketing and sales,” said Geoff Rendell, Case IH’s Hay and Harvest Manager.
“The new market has made the market more competitive, which makes grain quality even more important. We’re yet to see what the new players in the market will offer in terms of standards or reward schemes for high quality grain; however it pays to be prepared to capitalise on any future schemes by ensuring you’re harvesting with the best possible equipment. Axial-Flow combines are known for their clean grain samples, thanks to their single, in-line rotor design which results in gentle crop-on-crop threshing.”
Capacity has also become more important in a deregulated market, with farmers looking to get through the harvest as quickly and efficiently as possible. “This leaves them with more time up their sleeves to concentrate on things such as grain marketing,” Geoff added. For fast harvesting capacity, the Case IH 7088 model Axial-Flow, with its 10,570 litre grain tank and 280 max kW (375 max Hp), features a larger rotor belt for higher crop throughput. The new 20 Series is also designed for high crop throughput, with all three models featuring a power rise for whenever crop conditions demand it and the 7120 model featuring a power rise and power boost for unloading on-the-go.