WA grain farmers steamroll through harvest programs

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
Harvest at Moora.
Camera IconHarvest at Moora. Credit: Jim Hamilton/Jim Hamilton

WA’s hardworking grain farmers are steamrolling through their harvest programs, with 2.2 million tonnes delivered in a seven-day period marking the busiest week of harvest so far and propelling the State’s total to 9.18 million tonnes.

CBH Group’s most recent crop report labelled it an “impressive run” driven by good harvest conditions in the Albany, Kwinana South and Esperance Port Zones, where 676,000t, 582,000t and 551,000t were delivered into its network respectively.

The State’s grain harvest forecast has been slashed a nearly 500,000 tonnes during the past month, with the Grain Industry Association of WA’s November estimate now at about 14.5Mt — down on the October forecast of 14.95Mt.

CBH chief operations officer Mick Daw said after slowing winding back the number of sites open in the Geraldton Port Zone, the co-operative was likely to start closing bins in the Kwinana North Zone as growers finalised their harvest programs.

“According to our estimates, we are still expecting approximately another four million tonnes to come in across the network,” he said.

Mr Daw urged farmers to check CBH Group’s CDF app to find out which segregations and sites were open and closed in their area.

The increased pace comes after the State’s grain harvest reached the halfway point by about November 20, with most farmers expected to be finished by Christmas — marking one of the earliest end dates in recent years.

CBH expects to receive about 13.7Mt of the 14.5Mt total, with the remaining 800,000t likely delivered outside of the CBH Group system to grain handling competitor Bunge, retained on farm, or sold through private contracts.

”Wagin farmer Bryan Kilpatrick was approaching the halfway mark of his harvest this week after starting on October 29 — the first harvest start date in his time on the farm.

“The crops were ready before we were ready because of the hot and dry finish,” he said.

“Cereals were ready to go before canola, so we started with barley and then went onto canola.

“Yields have been better than expected and we have been pleasantly surprised... for 260mm of growing season rain, we haven’t had a lot but it all just came at the right time.”

Further south, at Newdegate, Tim Walter said he was feeling fortunate to be having an average harvest after a dry year.

He said farmers in the area who thought they had largely escaped frost damage had discovered it was worse than expected.

“It isn’t terrible, but there is a bit more damage there than expected,” he said.

“Our harvest has still been pretty good.”

A short, sharp finish to the growing season — due to a lack of rain and hot conditions —meant many farmers started harvest earlier than usual with the first delivery to CBH’s Yuna bin on September 27.

At close of business on Monday, November 28, farmers in CBH’s Kwinana South Zone had delivered the most grain into the co-operative’s network with 2.08Mt. This was followed by those in the Esperance Port Zone at 2.01Mt.

Farmers in the Albany Port Zone look likely to crack the 2Mt mark this week, with 1.91Mt in the bin at that same point, while 1.86Mt was in the bin across the Kwinana North Zone and 1.31Mt in the Geraldton Port Zone.

While this year’s harvest overall has been a far cry from the record crops harvested in 2020-21 and 2022-23 — at 24Mt and 26Mt respectively — it has been a record for one tiny CBH bin in the Great Southern.

CBH Group’s Pingrup site set a new daily record last week, receiving more than 9681.44 tonnes of grain on November 23.

After stop-start rain halted harvest operations in WA earlier this month, it was South Australian and western Victorian farmers’ turn to contend with heavy downpours this week when more than 100mm fell across both areas.

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