Barley trade flows to Middle East

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
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The barley trade is booming with the biggest ever shipment from WA set to leave Esperance for the Middle East this week on board the Minoan Falcon.

The record-breaking shipment - worth an estimated $19 million - comes with this harvest continuing at breakneck speed.

CBH has received 4.41 million tonnes of grain, 2mt more than at the same time last year.

CBH marketing and trading general manager Jason Craig said the co-operative's 77,000t shipment of feed barley to Saudi Arabia was another huge boost for the industry.

"Saudi Arabia is the largest feed barley importer in the world, requiring 7.5mt to 8mt per year. Those imports are set to rise with the country's growing population and increasing living standards," Mr Craig said. "Saudi is developing as an important market for wheat as domestic grain production is due to cease in 2016."

In 2012-13, almost 40 per cent of CBH's total grain exports went to the Middle East and Africa.

"The region is an extremely important market for us and executing a shipping program using these larger vessels will enable us to better compete into that market from a freight perspective," Mr Craig said.

The Minoan Falcon requires a 13.2m draft and is about 6m wider than the vessels CBH usually loads out of Esperance.

The shipment is a milestone in terms of CBH's ability to use big ships to create big efficiencies in storage times, infrastructure and delivery to export markets.

The Grain Industry Association of WA has revised its 2013-14 harvest forecast from 13.8mt tonnes to 14.4mt, including 9.2mt of wheat, while CHB is sticking to a more conservative estimate of less than 14mt.

The dramatic turnaround in the season since June when numerous districts recorded the lowest rainfall figures on record continues to amaze the industry.

Daily grain receival records at CBH's Grass Patch (15,066t) and Esperance (27,177t) facilities in the Esperance port zone were broken again last week. In the Albany zone, daily receival records tumbled at Katanning, Gairdner and Lake Grace.

"It's a season that has kept everyone on their toes, we are so pleased to see growers getting their tonnes to site now after all their hard work," CBH operations manager Dave Capper said. The Geraldton port zone has received 1.043mt (an estimated 55 per cent of harvest) up until Friday, Esperance 1.083mt (44 per cent), Kwinana 1.745mt (27 per cent) and Albany 0.512mt (16 per cent).

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