Cash crop a record
A perfect storm of good yields and high prices has delivered WA grain growers their most valuable crop ever. Koorda farmers Kurt and Kristen Fuchsbichler, and kids Jovan, 8, Ziggi, 14, Vashti, 10, and Luella, 4, are enjoying the good times in agriculture.
WA grain growers have cashed in on a perfect storm of record prices and kind weather conditions to deliver their most valuable crop ever, pumping about a record $6 billion into the State’s economy.
While this year’s WA grain crop is the second-biggest, at more than 16 million tonnes, it is worth the most amount of money on the back of a severe drought in the east and booming demand for feed grain to fill contract washouts.
In what some analysts have labelled a once-in-a-lifetime situation, 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 million.
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.
Mercardo commodity analyst Andrew Whitelaw said WA’s wheat crop alone would be worth more than $3 billion.
“Normally, if you have strong premiums against the rest of the world, you don’t have a crop,” he said. “The chances of this happening area so slim that it is doubtful you would see a situation like this more than a couple of times in a lifetime.”
Grain Industry Association of WA crop report author Michael Lamond said the Wheatbelt was the shining light this harvest.
But he said growers in parts of the Lakes district continued to battle dry conditions and had harvested a below-average yields.
Kurt Fuchsbichler, who farms near Koorda with his wife Kristen, has had his best ever harvest.
“We surprised ourselves, we didn’t expect to get the yields we did,” he said. “This is our best harvest ever and coincides perfectly with the decile nine-10 pricing.”
WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the State’s farmers had soldiered on through a “wildly unpredictable season”
She said the Government was still monitoring dry conditions in parts of WA’s south.
“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,” Ms MacTiernan said.
Kurt and Kristen Fuchsbichler with children Vashti, 10, Jovan, 8, Ziggi, 14, and Luella, 4.