Grain harvest tipped at 15mt

By Brad Thompson and Jenne BrammerThe West Australian

The Grains Industry Association of WA has lifted its harvest forecast to more than 15 million tonnes after big rainfall events in August.

In its September Crop report, GIWA increased its estimate by 6 per cent from the previous month, after the widespread, drenching rains delivered more than 100mm to some parts of the eastern Wheatbelt.

However, to achieve this forecast, GIWA cautioned that weather for September needed to remain cool to warm with at least average rainfall. The threat of a frost in the southern and central districts was also a significant risk.

GIWA said overall crop development varied from the northern to the southern regions, but overall yield potential had improved in all regions.

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Meanwhile, the Esperance zone was on track for a record grain harvest.

For the first time in many years, crops across the entire Esperance zone were in excellent condition, with good soil moisture on the back of almost perfect winter rainfall.

In the Geraldton zone yields in the districts from Binnu across to Pindar were also high.

CBH chairman Wally Newman is tipping a harvest of about 16 million tonnes given a run of favourable conditions over spring and early summer.

Mr Newman said the biggest threats to outstanding crops in his home district of Newdegate were frost and wet conditions over harvest.

"If we get a normal run, it is looking very good," he said. "We have had two of our best years in Newdegate and this year is looking like it could even be better, but I'm not counting my chickens until they have hatched," he said.

"We work on about a 1.6 tonnes (per hectares) average and we were doing between 3t/ha and 4t/ha over the last two years. That has really given a boost to growers that only recently had serious concerns after poor years and poor prices."

Mr Newman, who took up the CBH reins in April last year, said the past two harvests had helped farmers "get their noses in front".

"For once in their life the growers are telling the bank managers what to do instead of the bank managers telling the growers what to do," he said.

"The mood out in the bush is really good."

The only downside is a dramatic softening in grain prices. Wheat prices have plunged in recent months despite the falling Australian dollar, with APW down from $325/t to about $275/t. Only oat prices have remained strong at about $334/t.

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