Grain grow­ers avoid ‘dis­as­ter’ year

Albany Advertiser - - NEWS - Cally Dupe and Shan­non Smith

While WA grain grow­ers have cashed in on record prices and the State’s se­cond-biggest grain crops of more than 16 mil­lion tonnes, the Al­bany zone has seen a roller­coaster sea­son and mixed har­vest re­sults.

Farms on the west­ern side of the Al­bany zone, in­clud­ing Ken­de­nup, Franklin and Rocky Gully saw high yields and record har­vests.

Fur­ther east of the zone in ar­eas such as Box­wood Hill, Gaird­ner and Jer­ra­mungup, where it has been the dri­est year on record for many farms, farm­ers have en­dured a far less de­sir­able har­vest.

Stir­ling to Coast Farm­ers chair­man and farmer Derek Cur­wen said it had been a very mixed year for farm­ers on the south coast.

“Over­all, it has been a very dif­fi­cult year for ev­ery­body, the fires early on — four cy­clonic wind events, a lot of re­seed­ing, a large amount of sheep feed­ing, a dry win­ter and rain dur­ing har­vest,” he said.

“We have to take away the pos­i­tive that for a lot of us, what was look­ing like an im­pend­ing dis­as­ter has turned out rea­son­ably de­cent.

“In July, a lot of the younger gen­er­a­tions were hang­ing their heads be­cause they have never seen any­thing quite like this year, so for it to end up be­ing rea­son­able is quite ex­tra­or­di­nary. It goes to show you never give up in agri­cul­ture.”

In what some an­a­lysts have la­belled a once-in-a-life­time situa- tion, WA grow­ers have en­joyed pre­mi­ums of up to $120 above the Chicago Board of Trade and, in some cases, record-break­ing yields de­spite a rel­a­tively dry fin­ish and pock­ets of frost in some ar­eas.

The per­fect storm means the WA grain crop — which av­er­ages about $4 bil­lion in value — will be worth at least a record $6 bil­lion, smash­ing the pre­vi­ous record of $5 bil­lion set in 2016-17.

Some in­dus­try an­a­lysts have suggested it could be worth as much as $7 bil­lion. WA de­liv­ered its biggest crop ever in 2016-17, about 18 mil­lion tonnes, in­clud­ing grain de­liv­ered to other han­dlers and re­tained on farm.

While this year’s crop is smaller, a 30 per cent price rise means it will be worth much more.

CBH mar­ket­ing and trad­ing gen­eral man­ager Ja­son Craig said wheat prices alone rose al­most $100 since seed­ing time in April.

By Tues­day, more than 16 mil­lion tonnes had been de­liv­ered to CBH. In­dus­try es­ti­mates a fur­ther one mil­lion tonnes is usu­ally stored on farm or sold else­where.

WA Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Alan­nah MacTier­nan said the State’s farm­ers had sol­diered on through a “wildly un­pre­dictable sea­son”.

“We are lucky to have the dou­ble this year, not only high pro­duc­tion vol­umes, but strong prices, which will bring dol­lars into our re­gional towns, ”she said.

The Al­bany Zone har­vest is due to end in the com­ing week.

Pic­ture: Ro­han Bal­lard

Har­vest at Lake Grace.

Pic­ture: Lau­rie Ben­son

South Stir­ling farmer Derek Cur­wen.

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