Skyrocketing prices have resulted in a record amount of canola being planted nationwide this year.
- An estimated 3.4 million hectares of canola have been planted across the country, a new record
- Sky-high prices of up to $1,200 a tonne make oilseeds attractive
- Full-moisture soil profiles could see three consecutive years of bumper crops
The Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF) estimated that more than 3.4 million hectares of canola had entered across the country, including 880,000 hectares in New South Wales.
This represented a new record for NSW and a 25% increase on the area harvested last year.
Despite the increase in hectares planted, production forecasts are lower than last season, with 2021 yields seen as tough to beat.
AOF general manager Nick Goddard said price was the driving factor behind the switch to canola this year.
“Prices have exploded over the past 12 months and that has made canola a very attractive option,” Goddard said.
Canola futures prices were above $1,200 a tonne during the seeding period, but have since fallen back to around $800 a tonne.
The record price spike was partly driven by concerns over sunflower production in Ukraine, with canola oil replacing sunflower oil.
Indonesia’s ban on palm oil exports, announced in April, also played a role.
Northern growers turn to canola
Canola traditionally makes up a smaller part of the rotation in northern New South Wales or is considered an opportunity crop.
But Mr. Goddard said farmers were ready to invest more in growing oilseeds this year.
“As is always the case with canola, it’s this opportunity coming up in the northern part of the state that … really drives the NSW numbers up.
“Conditions were perfect, maybe a little too perfect in that we saw a little too much water up there.”
Moree farmer Ed Tomlinson said he planted more canola but reduced his seeded acres of chickpeas.
“I guess over the last couple of seasons, given that we’ve had some pretty great canola growing years and hitting record yields, obviously we’ve chosen to go that route.
“I used to say grow canola every year because one year in five pays off the other four, but the last two years we’ve had phenomenal results.”
He said as canola began to bloom in the district, it was becoming clear that neighbors had made similar decisions.
“There are new canola growers, and certainly those who plant it have planted more than they usually would.
Third “magnificent” season in a row
The Riverina is NSW’s largest canola growing region and this year farmers are hoping for another huge harvest.
Henty farmer Peter Campbell has been growing canola since the late 1980s but said he didn’t expect to see the yields they’ve had in the past two years.
“We tried to achieve an average of three tons [a hectare] for a long time and we’ve averaged over three tonnes over the past two years, and we’ve grown to over four tonnes last year in a paddock,” Mr Campbell said.
He hoped they could see three bumper crops in a row, saying most of the district’s canola looked “beautiful” so far.
“It will depend on the spring of course as always, but there is so much moisture in the ground now… looks like there won’t be too many frosts later.”
He had replaced canola with paddocks of lupine this year, while other farmers in the district had switched to more canola from barley or oats.
“[It’s] only because of the price at the time of sowing.”