Containerized wheat sales setting records in Australia

by Teresa Acklin
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   CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA — Australian containerized wheat sales have set records in recent months as freight rates have plummeted and Asian demand has expanded to include small parcels as well as bulk shipments.

   Containerized wheat sales in Australia have reached from 40,000 to 50,000 tonnes per month, according to reports. Several traders have indicated that the container export trade will only increase in the next few years. “There's potential for container trade to open up more over the next few years,” said Lachlan Duff of New England Agricultural Traders.

   Guy Williams, manager of container export trade with Grainco Australia, said Grainco's boxed wheat sales — principally to the sub-continent — have skyrocketed to around 30,000 tonnes in recent months. “The only constraint is shipping lines can't keep up the supply of containers,” Mr. Williams said.

   A 50% drop in container rates into north and southeast Asia last year preceded a similar decrease in rates to the sub-continent. Freight to the sub-continent from southern Australian ports in January was A$600 (U.S.$379) to A$700 per 20-foot container, down from A$900 to A$1,000 per tonne a year ago. At around A$30 (U.S.$19) per tonne, this compares with roughly A$15 to A$22 per tonne — depending on cargo size — for bulk.

   India, Bangladesh and Vietnam are among the prime destinations for the containerized wheat. Italy and Spain are said to be the two main European markets interested in containerized wheat.