Farmers welcome dollar drop

Jenne BrammerThe West Australian

Newdegate farmer and local business owner Robert Newman welcomes the weaker Australian dollar for the impact it is having on supporting commodity prices.

Mr Newman, who runs Newman Seed Works and crops about 6500ha each year, said the falling dollar meant grain prices for Australian farmers were currently not as low as they could otherwise be.

"The weaker dollar certainly has helped our prices," he said.

"Grain prices have been headed south all year, but the weaker dollar has cushioned the fall."

Although banks are forecasting further weakness, Mr Newman does not factor these forecasts into his grain marketing strategy.

He said it was often the case that banks' forecasts were incorrect, and that other global factors driving the price of grain were more volatile.

"The global factors driving the price of grain are more volatile than the dollar movements. So you are better off just watching the price of grain and when it's good grab it, rather than adding a future currency forecast into the mix."

Mr Newman, who farms with his son Kim and employs two permanent staff on their farm, said about 20 per cent of their land was dedicated to a sheep enterprise.

He said the dollar was also beneficial in terms of supporting the wool price, and export meat.

Although beneficial for the sale of his meat, wool and grain, Mr Newman said the weaker dollar had the opposite impact on fertiliser and machinery imports which became more expensive.

"You want the dollar as weak as possible when selling and as strong as possible when buying imported goods. It doesn't always work that way though," he said.

"On balance, a weaker dollar offers more benefits than disadvantages."

Mr Newman is also feeling optimistic about his cropping enterprise this year.

Although things were looking fairly dry towards the end of July, a welcome downpour of between 34 and 50mm and a subsequent 30mm in subsequent weeks, meant his crops are now looking good.

Mr Newman also owns Newman Seed Works and has recently appointed assistant manager Andrew Steicke, who with his wife Helen and their four children moved to Newdegate in November last year from Cranbrook.

Mr Steicke works alongside manager Silvano Abenir, who is now approaching his eighth season as manager at the seed works.

Established in 1969, Newman Seedworks cleans about 15,000 tonnes of seed a year, mostly wheat, barley and oats but also canola, lupins and peas, from within an 80-100km radius of Newdegate.

"In particular, we have seen a big increase in demand for oats to be cleaned, in line with increased plantings due to the current attractive prices," he said.

Mr Newman said a per-tonne charge applied according to the type of grain, however Newman Seed Works paid the farmers for seconds, which were then sold to feed mills.

This payment covers most of the cost of the seed-cleaning service and means farmers benefit from good-quality seed, which is free of weeds such as rye grass, raddish, wild oats and brome grass.

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