Barley plantings jump in line with prices

Cally DupeCountryman
Mobrup growers Rob and Jen Warburton in a field of Planet barley.
Camera IconMobrup growers Rob and Jen Warburton in a field of Planet barley. Credit: Cally Dupe

Barley has emerged as the star of grain growers’ seeding programs this year, with prices historically high and WA’s predicted plantings up seven per cent compared to last year.

Australia exported almost 2.5 million tonnes of barley between the start of October last year and end of February, as demand for feed in north-east Asia soared.

Grain Industry Association of WA crop report author Michael Lamond said current feed barley prices — about $270 a tonne — were within 10 per cent of record prices. “The yields growers are getting from barley in a lot of cases are exceeding wheat, especially feed barleys,” he said.

“When you combine a higher price with extra yield it makes sense for a lot of growers to grow barley instead of wheat.”

Mr Lamond said growers across all port zones except Esperance had touted increased barley plantings, with malt varieties likely to be popular in the northern grainbelt this year.

Feed barley was trading about $270/t this week, a rise of about $50/t since November. Comparatively, prices for Australian Standard White wheat were about $239/t this week.

The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement has also removed a 3 per cent tariff on Australian produce, improving growers’ rewards.

Mobrup grain and sheep farmers Rob and Jen Warburton have scaled back their cropping program this year to focus on sheep, seeding lupins for the first time in 20 years.

Their cropping program will include about 600ha of barley, but Mr Warburton said he was still hoping for prices in the realm of $300/t.

The couple chase yields of six to seven tonnes per hectare rather than malt status and plan to seed mostly RGT Planet this year. “Feed barley prices are pretty strong for this time of year, worldwide there is not a lot of feed barley being grown,” Mr Warburton said.

“All grain prices need to be over $300/t to make a real difference, anything over $300/t is moving in the right direction.”

The couple were impressed with their personal 10ha trial of RGT Planet’s performance last year, after seeding 100kg/ha in April.

They previously grew Oxford barley, a late to medium-maturity variety, and target yields of five or six tonnes per hectare for feed.

CBH acting head of trading Dane Robertson said growers faced a different set of price relatives on broadacre options compared to last year. “The strong market demand for feed barley has driven up the price offered to farmers,” he said.

He said growers were increasingly turning to Spartacus CL “due to its yield potential and recent malt accreditation”, while maltsters preferred Bass and Baudin.

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