Archive for » June 17th, 2014«

Australian farmers hold back wheat sales, may miss the boat

Australian farmers are holding back new-crop wheat sales on fears an El Nino weather pattern will slash yields, though their cautious approach means they risk losing sales to aggressive European rivals in Asian markets.

Russia and Ukraine are making inroads in countries such as Indonesia, which is traditionally dominated by Australia, while a big global crop could push prices even lower by the time Australia‘s new wheat marketing season starts in September.

Despite the best start to an Australian season for many years, the country’s farmers have shied away from exports – selling only about 10 percent of the new crop forward compared with a typical 30 percent in a good year.

Growers have been hurt in the past by selling grains forward, but then not being able to deliver wheat in the right amount or to the correct specification due to bad weather. This can lead to contract defaults and financial penalties.

“If you commit and forward sell and you can’t meet that physical delivery, you can’t just unwind it. It happened in 2008 and it can get very, very ugly,” said Dan Cooper, a grain farmer in Caragabal, 400 kilometers (250 miles) west of Sydney.

Drought can wreak havoc with wheat output in Australia, the world’s third-largest exporter. Production slumped to just 9.74 million tonnes in 2006/07 from 25 million tonnes a year earlier, according to Australian government data.

“Australian growers in the last 12 years have gone through three or four droughts, so they are very wary of an El Nino situation when the rain stops,” said a Sydney-based grains trader.

The chance of an El Nino developing this year remains at least 70 percent, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said last week, adding to growing global fears of the weather pattern that can bring severe drought across much of Asia.


The world, meanwhile, is well supplied with wheat.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week raised its forecast for global wheat output to 701.6 million tonnes, which would make it the second-biggest crop on record after last year’s 714 million tonnes.

Wheat prices hit a one-year high at $7.35 a bushel on May 6, but have since fallen 20 percent on the prospect of plentiful global supplies and as Northern Hemisphere growers have rushed to market a near record harvest.

Don Campbell, head of trading at Australia‘s largest exporter CBH Group, said Russian wheat was being aggressively offered, widening the price spread between Australia and Black Sea origins.

At this time of year, Australian new-crop wheat is quoted at $10-$20 a tonne higher than U.S. soft red winter wheat, including cost and freight into China. The spread between similar varieties of Russian and Australian wheat offered in Southeast Asia is much bigger at $50 a tonne.

With Australian wheat unable to compete at present, millers were switching to Russian grain, which would continue until new-crop Australian supplies come into the market, Campbell said.

Flour millers in Indonesia, Asia‘s biggest wheat buyer and Australia‘s top customer, have already bought around 325,000 tonnes of Russian wheat in recent deals for shipment in August and September, well above normal levels.

Indonesia typically buys about 7 million tonnes of wheat a year, with about 70 percent coming from Australia.

“The Black Sea region has ample supply this year,” said a Singapore-based trader who sells Australian and U.S. wheat into Asia. “We see stiff competition right from August when Black Sea crops enter the market and continuing through the end of the year when the Australian harvest starts.”

The big unknown is El Nino, despite a strong start to the Australian growing season.

Most areas, including top exporting Western Australia state, have had ample soil moisture and benign temperatures to aid crop development, although Queensland and northern parts of New South Wales have remained dry.

“For the country as a whole, I think it is fair to say the best start in at least 10 years,” the Sydney-based trader said.

Australia currently expects a crop of about 24.6 million tonnes, which would be the sixth biggest on record, but has warned that dry conditions are affecting yields and output could fall further if an El Nino forms.

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ON THE WATER: Lasers Contend On Father’s Day Weekend

Laser Sailing

Laser Sailing

EXPERT SKIPPER. Bruno Fontes from Brazil, the world’s fourth-ranked Laser Full sailor, will race in Alamitos Bay this weekend. 

Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2014 1:00 am

ON THE WATER: Lasers Contend On Father’s Day Weekend

By Jo Murray
Gazette Columnist

Long Beach, California: Grunion Gazette Newspapers,

Father’s Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to a summer of playing in the water, wriggling bare feet in the sand and barbequing on the grill.

Alamitos Bay Yacht Club will mark the occasion by hosting the 2014 Laser, Laser Radial and Laser 4.7 North American and U.S. Singlehanded Championships. The event attracts sailors from all over North America, from young participants in the Radial and 4.7 to U.S. and Canadian national sailing teams. 

The Canadian-designed Laser is the largest dinghy class in the world, with more than 200,000 boats built. Both the men’s Laser and the women’s Laser Radial are Olympic-class events. The hulls are all the same, while the mast and sail area vary for the three classes. 

At press time, there are 178 entries, with more than 50 entries from exotic locations outside the states, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, Mexico, Canada, Peru and Guatemala.

I contacted a couple of the international entrants, including Guillermo Flaquer from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, who told me this will serve as a qualifying event for the upcoming Panamerican Gámez (which sounds less glamorous in English as “PanAm Games”) scheduled in Toronto early next year. 

The world’s fourth-ranked Laser Full sailor, Bruno Fontes from Brazil, said he is excited to compete in this high-level championship and hopes to better his world ranking. Fontes is looking to the Long Beach regatta to hone his skills for the Aquece Rio in August — the first of two “test events” for the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition — and the Laser Worlds in Santander, Spain, in September.

ABYC commodore Jennifer

Kuritz said the boats will be all along the Peninsula beach. It promises to be picturesque, with almost 200 identical boats lining the shore each morning as they prepare for a grueling day. Racing starts today (Thursday); three races will be run each day through Sunday on trapezoid courses inside or outside the breakwater starting at noon each day, conditions permitting. 

Long Beach is known for steady winds, a wise choice for international sailing regattas. We also have a strong reputation for race management. 

Event chairman Ed Spotskey attributes the selection of ABYC as the venue for this prestigious regatta to the fact that the principal race officer will be Mark Townsend. Townsend, whose British accent and deliberate delivery seems to lend creditability to every word he utters, spent his teenage years racing Snipes in England. He was in Long Beach for the Snipe Worlds when he became smitten with his future wife Robin and, as a team, they have been extremely competitive in the Cal 20 fleet. Townsend started the natural transition that brainiac sailors often do, and he began managing race courses.

His race management resume is impressive. He has served as race officer a number of times all over the world. His work in Key West gained international visibility. 

Recently, Townsend has been part of the driving force in getting local sailors trained and certified in judging and umpiring. With Long Beach the home of on-the-water umpiring, it was a logical step to groom higher-level judges. Some of those who were recently certified will serve as part of the large team of umpires on the water for this weekend’s regatta.

Each evening, the sailors will return to ABYC for some hot appetizers and informal debriefs.  

With 200 boats launching from the beach and mixing it up in the bay, there will be a lot of action for fathers and others to enjoy. 

If you join the crowd, look for two young competitors — Ty and Nic Baird from Florida. Their dad, Ed Baird, was the 1980 World Laser Champ before winning the 2004 Congressional Cup and the 2007 Americas Cup. Now there’s a father to look up to.


Thursday, June 12, 2014 1:00 am.

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