Hope sprouts but crop cut

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

CBH has revised its forecast for this season's harvest down to less than 10 million tonnes despite recent rains that rescued crops in parts of the Wheatbelt.

Operations manager David Capper said the co-operative expected a harvest of 9mt to 10mt based on strong yields in the Esperance and Albany zones.

Mr Capper warned that farmers north of Geraldton, east of Merredin and north of Merredin through to Koorda, faced a very tough time.

"Some are unlikely to get much of a crop at all and they will already be thinking about finances for next year," he said.

"North of Merredin, there is crop coming out of the ground but it is August and the forecast for Morawa on the weekend is 27C. If we start getting a few hot and windy days, those late crops will be really knocked around."

Parts of the Wheatbelt suffered through a record-breaking dry June and start to July but rain over the past three weeks offered hope to some growers.

"But big slabs missed out and even places that are now looking OK will need a big, soft finish," Mr Capper said yesterday after inspecting crops north to Geraldton.

Department of Agriculture and Food WA grain industry director David Bowran said he expected yields to be down, but a harvest in the 10mt to 13mt range was not out of the question given an extremely favourable end to the season.

Dr Bowran inspected crops in Wyalkatchem, Koorda, Mukinbudin and Merredin yesterday.

"We are going to have reduction in crop size but it might not be as bad as it looks at the moment because the next two months are critical in terms of getting rain and nearly all of the forecasting models are showing normal to slightly above normal rainfall," he said.

"There is crop which is only just coming out of ground. North of Merredin some crops have only germinated in past three weeks - it just sat in the ground waiting for rain - but obviously yields will be down because it is so late."

Dr Bowran said crops had died or failed to germinate on the northern and eastern fringes of the Wheatbelt, but 85 per cent of the region was in reasonable shape if the rain kept coming and frost stayed away.

"I think the rain that we have had through 75 per cent of the Wheatbelt in past month has salvaged a significant proportion of the crop," he said.

Pasture had been slow to recover and remained a big problem.

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