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ANOTHER RECORD: WA’s bumper grain harvest set to reach 24.7Mt and smash last year’s 24.3Mt record

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
Bolgart farmer Julian McGill.
Camera IconBolgart farmer Julian McGill. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman

Two years ago, some thought a 20 million tonne harvest was a pipe dream for WA and its harsh farming landscape.

Now, the State’s 3900 grain farmers look set to smash last year’s record 24.3Mt harvest with the latest industry predictions bumped up to an unbelievable 24.7Mt.

The latest industry forecast, compiled by the Grains Industry Association of WA on December 15, has predicted a bumper crop of 13Mt of wheat, 6.25Mt of barley, 4.24Mt of canola, 565,000 tonnes of oats, 620,000 tonnes of lupins, and 72,000 tonnes of pulses including chickpeas and field peas.

GIWA crop report author Mike Lamond said it had been a “year to remember” for the State’s grain farmers, both due to the bumper yields and unseasonal weather ahead of and during harvest.

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“Grain yields in some cases are the best ever, and in most cases, growers’ average paddock yields are higher than last year, which was a record tonnage for the State by a fair margin,” he said.

The biggest contribution to the record crop is expected to come from farmers in CBH Group’s Kwinana Port Zone, with 11.86Mt of grain expected to be harvested, followed by Albany at 5.13Mt, Geraldton at 4.06Mt and Esperance at 3.69Mt.

The forecast was bumped up from last month’s 23.9Mt prediction.

With WA’s harvest running several weeks later than normal, the total harvest tonnage will not be known until mid-January — leaving what Mr Lamond said was “some uncertainty” around the total.

“The very wet southern Albany and Esperance Port Zone may not come in with all the tonnes expected due to the likely impact on lodged crops and head loss on final harvested yields,” he said.

Canola and lupin yields have been particularly exceptional, while barley yields and quality have been solid everywhere except for the southern region where leaf diseases took hold and yield was lost.

Bolgart farmer Julian McGill said it had been a “perfect storm” for most farmers, in terms of weather and crop growth, but noted soaring input costs had taken the shine off a profitable year.

Mr McGill farms with his wife Dale and son Tobe, growing wheat, barley, canola and lupins about 120km north-east of Perth in the Wheatbelt.

Their other son Jack is a mechanic at AFGRI Equipment in Wongan Hills.

“This year we are having one of the best years I have seen,” Mr McGill said.

“We hope it repeats itself. We have been drip fed rain when we have needed it.”

About 560mm fell at the home farm and 670mm at the McGill’s farm east of town, which is about 100mm above the 10-year average for both farms.

“The timing was perfect, there was a small dry period in July which I think actually helped crops along here,” Mr McGill said.

“It allowed them to get their roots down to hit that available moisture.”

Nearby in Wongan Hills, father-and-son team Alastair and Sid Falconer are going great guns with their harvest, saying yields were some of the best they had ever seen.

The Falconers farm three properties East of Coorow, East of Watheroo and north of Wongan Hills.

This year’s program is entirely made up of wheat and canola after they decided to swing lupins out of their program for the first time in a decade on the back of low prices ahead of seeding.

Coorow father and son farming team Alastair and Sid Falconer.
Camera IconCoorow father and son farming team Alastair and Sid Falconer. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman

The family cranked up harvest in late November, kicking off with wheat.

After finishing the wheat harvest across the three properties in early December, they have moved onto canola — wrapping up the harvest of that grain at Coorow first, before heading to Wongan Hills and now at Watheroo.

“The canola harvest was a bit slow, thanks to the rain, but the wheat has been a bit quicker,” Mr Falconer said.

“We hoped to get through Watheroo before Christmas.”

While Mr Falconer said the team were all happy to chip in and help across all jobs, he has found himself with one main role.

The difficulty finding truck drivers means he has been firmly bum on seat this harvest, carting grain to CBH sites in the Geraldton and Kwinana North Port Zones.

“I’d probably be more use in the paddock,” Mr Falconer joked.

The Falconers deliver canola to Konnongorring, Carnamah and Moora, and wheat to Coorow and Watheroo.

Describing it as a “pretty normal” harvest, Mr Falconer said the only real hiccups had been a few rain delays.

“They haven’t been big delays, just enough to slow things down. Getting started was a bit slow but it is picking up now,” he said.

“We have had some good harvesting years. It is a better year yield-wise, we may have had a few better canola years, but it’s good.”

Even deliveries at his local CBH sites have been smooth, he said, with no significant hold ups.

But the big thing on his mind is the price of grain.

WA’s lagging grains supply chain means the capability to get grain to port is limited, dampening prices for farmers hoping to sell as much grain as possible during the first half of the year — before the northern hemisphere crop becomes available.

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