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Port facing harvest pressure

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman
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A record harvest is set to put Geraldton Port under pressure, amid fears of congestion and a lack of storage.

The Geraldton zone has the ability to store about 2.8 million tonnes, but it’s only August and CBH are already flagging record-smashing receivals of three million tonnes.

The race is now on to build extra storage before harvest begins.

CBH operations manager Colin Tutt said the grain handler was waiting on shire approval to build further storage on the Geraldton Building Company land, purchased five years ago and adjacent to CBH’s existing silos.

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CBH also plans to build more storage at Moonyoonooka and has had meetings with the shire this week.

According to CBH Geraldton zone manager Duncan Gray, the extra storage will boost capacity by 500,000 tonnes, to 3.2 million.

But if approval for the storage doesn’t come through, Mr Tutt said the abundance of grain in northern regions would prove difficult to manage.

The Grain Industry Association of WA (GIWA) estimates the average wheat yield for the Geraldton zone at 2.4 tonnes and with 925,000ha planted; that represents 2.22 million tonne haul of wheat alone.

“The Geraldton area will be difficult because it could be potentially half a million plus over its all-time record. That’s going to be really tough to manage, ” Mr Tutt said.

“It’s the port that is the issue. We just can’t get enough ships at the moment… we just need marketers to bring ships in during the harvest to ease the pressure off in Geraldton.”

Mr Tutt said CBH was trying to encourage marketers to commit to early shipping in November or December, but the situation was confounded by uncertainty.

“Because there is so much uncertainty about whether growers are going to nominate and who owns the grain, the marketers are reluctant to book in early shipping, ” he said.

“It makes it difficult for us to run that Geraldton zone because of those issues. If we lose this emergency storage stuff we will be a little bit concerned about it.

“We would have a look at some unusual strategies at Northampton, some more at Mingenew to ease that pressure off the port.

“We would try to stop grain moving from Mingenew to Geraldton (and)… from Northampton to Geraldton.”

All up, CBH estimates this harvest will generate between 11.5 and 12.5 million tonnes, after strong July rains reversed drying trends for much of the grain belt.

Esperance is looking at an average harvest, with an estimate of 1.5 million tonnes.

GIWA estimates have put the Esperance wheat yield at 2.06 tonnes and the canola yield at 1.15 tonnes.

Mr Tutt said Albany zone was looking at a two million tonne haul and GIWA estimates the wheat and canola yields at 1.7 and 1.1 tonnes.

The Kwinana zone is looking at a harvest of 5.6 million tonnes, with GIWA putting the wheat yield at 1.5 tonnes and canola at 1.16 tonnes.

The improved harvest means more bins open in the Kwinana zone, but Mr Tutt said final planning was yet to happen.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about bins we didn’t open last year, such as Hines Hill, Nungarin, ” Mr Tutt said.

“We will definitely open Nungarin for example, there’s a lot of discussion going on about Kodj Kodjin. We will give that due consideration once we see what rain we get in September.”

But despite most regions anticipating a good harvest, pockets have still missed out.

“I think anything east of Merredin has struggled, Bullfinch has struggled as well, ” Mr Tutt said.

“Anything north of Grass Patch as well, Beaumont has struggled as well.

“They won’t turn around now; we’re getting too deep into the year.”

CBH is expecting 75,000 tonnes of GM canola, about 12 to 14 per cent of the total canola harvest.

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