Grain growers avoid ‘disaster’ year
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.
Harvest at Lake Grace.
South Stirling farmer Derek Curwen.