Farmers plant record canola acreage as oilseed prices soar

Skyrocketing prices have resulted in a record amount of canola being planted nationwide this year.

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.

The season is shaping up to be another bumper season, with crops starting to bloom across the country. (ABC Riverina: Olivia Calver)

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.

A man kneels in a crop of canola that has yet to flower on a cloudy day
Riverina farmer Peter Campbell is surprised by canola yields in recent years. (ABC Riverina: Olivia Calver)

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.

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