Early wrap-up to WA grain harvest casts doubts

Cally Dupe, Bob Garnant and Shannon SmithCountryman
Mullewa farmer Steve Rowe officially wrapped up his harvest program on November 6, marking the end of one of the shortest harvests in his farm’s history.
Camera IconMullewa farmer Steve Rowe officially wrapped up his harvest program on November 6, marking the end of one of the shortest harvests in his farm’s history. Credit: Justine Rowe

This year’s harvest is shaping up for one of the earliest finishes to date.

But the early wrap-up has some growers wondering whether WA will be able to reach its forecast 11.4 million tonne harvest this year.

On the eve of the release of the Grain Industry Association of WA’s final crop report for the year, Countryman spoke to a handful of growers to gauge their thoughts.

Crop report author Michael Lamond said GIWA was sticking firm to its 11.4 million tonne estimate, with tomorrow’s total only 12,000 less than last month’s.

The crop report will forecast 5.4 million tonnes of wheat, 4.08 million tonnes of barley, 1.09 million tonnes of canola, 395,000 tonnes of oats and 33,000 tonnes of pulses.

Mullewa farmer Steve Rowe has rolled the header back into the shed after a short harvest.
Camera IconMullewa farmer Steve Rowe has rolled the header back into the shed after a short harvest. Credit: Justine Rowe

“Barley and canola are up, and wheat is down on our previous forecast,” Mr Lamond said.

“We dropped our wheat estimate, because most of it is not coming in as high-yielding ... but quality is OK.

“It is still a low production year but the total production of 11.5 million tonnes is still pretty good, considering. But most areas north of Great Eastern Highway were 50 per cent below production.”

Mullewa farmer Steve Rowe has rolled the header back into the shed after a short harvest.

He officially wrapped up his harvest program on November 6, marking the end of one of the shortest harvests in his farm’s history.

Lake Grace farmer Noel Bairstow crops about 7800ha and wrapped up harvest on December 4, after starting on October 26.

He said the month-long harvest was the earliest start and finish to harvest he could remember.

“The weather has been perfect for harvest and we had no hold-ups at all ... which is rare,” he said

“I think WA will struggle to get to 11.4 million tonnes. I think it will be a million tonnes less ... one of the leaner years we have had.”

Mullewa farmer Steve Rowe.
Camera IconMullewa farmer Steve Rowe. Credit: Justine Rowe

Woodanilling grain and sheep producer Chris Patterson said he was fortunate to have an average-yielding crop this year.

“We had a good early drop of rain in March for our wheat, barley and canola cropping program,” he said. “Come October 25 we began our earliest ever start to harvest with some frost damage which was widespread in this area.”

The Patterson hope to finish their harvest by the end of December.

“I haven’t any idea of what the State’s harvest will be, but imagine crop yields may be well down on last year,” Mr Patterson said.

Northampton grain and livestock producer Tony Sudlow said 11.4 million tonnes was always going to be an optimistic figure.

“Most of the farmers in this area have harvested only half of last year’s tonnage,” he said.

“Some as low as a third.”

Mr Sudlow, who has finished his wheat, barley and lupin harvest, said yield was affected by a very late start to the season.

By Tuesday morning, CBH had received 9.04 million tonnes of grain, with the Albany Port Zone leading the charge at 2.46 million tonnes. Kwinana South had received 1.95 million tonnes, Kwinana South 1.82 million tonnes, Esperance 1.65 million tonnes, and Geraldton 1.23 million tonnes.

The forecast 11.4 million tonne crop is down 66 per cent on last year’s, which was WA’s second biggest but most valuable crop — at 17.2 million tonnes.

GIWA will release its December crop report on Friday, December 13.

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