Managing agricultural supply shortages

By Country News

Grain growers beginning to sow their crops are concerned the coronavirus pandemicwill limit the availability of imported chemical and fertiliser supplies.

Rabobank agricultural analyst Wes Lefroy said agricultural inputs, including urea and agrochemicals, would be available in most instances and in cases of supply shortages, workaround strategies could be adopted.

“This includes soil testing, plant testing and variable rate technology to ensure maximum efficiency of ag chemical and fertiliser usage,” Mr Lefroy said.

He said following a below-average crop for many farmers across Australia last season, residual nutrients in the soil were likely to be higher than usual, allowing for lower rates of fertiliser application.

“In addition, a wet summer will have driven greater mineralisation of nitrogen in the soil,” he said.

“So both of these factors mean, in some cases, additional nutrient requirements may be lower than usual.”

Mr Lefroy said growers’ planting intentions and weed management strategies may be altered according to the chemicals and fertilisers available to them.

He said growers should maintain regular contact with suppliers about the availability of ag chemicals in their region and to consult with agronomists about alternative plans.

Mr Lefroy said urea imports were a concern for growers who were looking to make the most of favourable soil moisture following good rainfall.

“On average, 60 per cent of our yearly imports of urea arrive on Australian shores during the April to July window and Australia typically imports 90 per cent of its total urea requirements, so we are heavily reliant on global supply chains.”

Mr Lefroy said production and logistics were operating with little interruption to date in Qatar and Saudi Arabia — Australia’s two largest sources for urea imports.

“And, in a scenario where supply was interrupted from the Middle East, sufficient alternative urea would be available from China, Indonesia and Malaysia — with whom we also have a strong trading history,” he said.

However, disruption to global or local urea supply chains, prohibiting the arrival of product, remained a potential risk under current circumstances.