Aussie farm flags wheat tactic as price fears rise

download (1) JPT Capital trumpeted the call by its Australian farms to lock in firm wheat prices by selling in advance even as data showing the country’s wheat stocks at a record high raised fears for values.

The Monaco-based fund management group said that forward selling "a percentage" of the newly-started wheat harvest at prices "above current market rates" would help its Western Australia farm operations beat expectations in their first full year in its ownership.

"Despite a softening in wheat prices, we still anticipate a strong financial performance because of… forward selling," John Paul Thwaytes, the fund’s founder and chief executive, said.

Yields at its farms had also "far" exceeded long-term averages.

‘Subdued prospects’

The comments came as official statistics revealed that Australia’s bulk wheat stocks had closed the 2010-11 season, which finished at the end of last month, at a record 8.25m tonnes, up 61% year on year.

Inventories in New South Wales and Victoria more than tripled, boosted by bumper harvests last year, which fuelled the rise in the national crop to a record 26.3m tonnes.

And, with another strong wheat harvest ahead, forecast by official crop bureau Abares at 26.2m tonnes, the large stocks raised concerns over price prospects.

"Record wheat supplies should keep Australian wheat basis subdued over the coming year, particularly for south eastern markets," Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said.

Indeed, it was "unlikely that exports and local demand will be sufficient to clear the total wheat supply over the coming year, implying that another large carryout result is likely in September 2012".

‘Saturated market’

Mr Mathews was particularly downbeat over prospects for prices of feed wheat, available in "unprecedented" quantities, and comprising, at 4m tonnes, nearly half the carryover stocks.

The six-fold rise in feed wheat inventories reflects harvest rains last year which forced the downgrade of swathes of the crop from milling standards, means feed grain prices are "likely to remain weak compared to high protein milling wheat supplies".

If this year suffers another wet harvest, "which some weather forecasts suggest is possible, Australian feed grain markets will become saturated", he added.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology on Tuesday said that the rest of 2011 looked likely to be wet in many parts of the country, and rains are already delaying harvest in parts of Western Australia.

‘Premium prices’

At JPT Capital, Mr Thwaytes said that revenues at its farms, owned through its Agrifund, would also be protected by high crop quality.

"The wheat production in some of the farms will hit premium hard wheat grades," he said.

"Given the demand for hard wheat, we are confident we can secure premium prices for a premium product."–3765.html

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