Thailand & Australia: Severe drought in Thailand could provide boost to Australian barley shipments
Severe drought in Thailand in the first five months of 2020 has adversely affected the production of off-season (dry season) rice and corn, primarily due to a lack of irrigation water as reservoirs are critically low, Grain Central reported on June 2.
This will decrease the countrys exportable surplus of rice and potentially increase demand for imported wheat and barley in the 2020/21 marketing year.
The area planted to dry-season crops fell 36 per cent to 1.4 million hectares relative to the 2018/19 crop year, after historically low precipitation during the 2019 monsoon led to record low water storage inflows late last year. Consequently, production of off-season rice and corn are forecast to decline by 41pc and 25pc respectively compared to the previous season.
Total 2019/20 rice production is forecast at 18 million tonnes (Mt), 14.8Mt in the wet-season production cycle and 3.2Mt in the dry-season window. This is the second-lowest level of production in the last ten years after a severe drought in the 2015/16 season slashed output to 15.8Mt.
Thailands corn production in the current marketing year is expected be around 4.5Mt, a fall of 20pc on 2018/19 levels. This was mainly due to an infestation of fall armyworm in the wet-season crop and a dry spell in June and July last year, seriously slowing early crop development.
Demand for feed grain in Thailand in 2020/21 is forecast to remain relatively static at around 20.3 Mt as shrinking swine production, a result of African swine fever, is offset by growing production in the poultry, dairy cattle, and fishery sectors. Nevertheless, this is contingent upon a recovery in animal protein consumption to pre-COVID-19 levels by early 2021 at the latest.
Of the total feed demand, the derived demand for corn is estimated at around 8.5Mt. But even with an expected rebound in domestic corn production in 2020/21, local corn producers will still only be able to supply around 6Mt.
It is this gap, between domestic animal feed requirements and corn production, that will drive import demand for corn, particularly from neighbouring countries like Myanmar, and other livestock feeds such as feed wheat, barley and dried distillers grain.
Last week the Thai Feed Millers Association (TFMA) passed on its wheat tender which had called for up to 227,500t of feed wheat for August to October delivery. It was said the offers were considered too high. The lowest was reported around US$215/t cost & freight (C&F), $10/t higher than expectations.
Maybe this opens the door for more purchases of Australian feed barley. Australian barley prices have recovered somewhat from the sharp drop after the draconian Chinese tariffs were imposed, but at around $195/t C&F Thailand, it is significantly cheaper than the latest feed wheat tender prices.
While not in the same league as China, Thailand has been an increasingly active buyer of Australian barley in recent years. Purchases of 250,000 tonnes in the 2017/18 Australian crop season (October to September) increased to almost 400,000 tonnes in 2018/19, making them Australias third-largest barley customer. At more than 430,000 tonnes, purchases in the first six months of this season have already exceeded last years total, with almost all of it being feed barley.
South-East Asian countries such as Thailand will not individually replace China as a destination for Australian barley. However, with a significant freight advantage over Black Sea origins, the region can play a critical role in shifting the focus away from China and avoid competing head to head with Black Sea exporters into Saudi Arabia.
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