Cold slows down harvest

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian
The West logo

Hopes for a quick and early start to harvest have been dashed by temperamental spring weather causing harvest delays across parts of the grain belt.

Farmers harvesting in the northern areas have had a frustrating start, according to CBH Geraldton Zone manager Duncan Gray.

Mr Gray said even though it was still an early start compared to last year, many growers were not able to get on to their paddocks until the early afternoon because of cold damp conditions.

"Yes, it's been frustratingly slow for many growers; it's been damp and cold," he said.

"But we've taken in 450,000 tonnes in our zone already, and at this time last year, we had only received 107,000 tonnes.

"We are 335,000 tonnes ahead of this time last year, so it has been an early start."

Mr Gray said some deliveries, particularly from the early sown and harvested crops, did have quality problems, but there was no clear delivery trend towards any major wheat grade at this early stage in the season.

"There has been some weather damage, yes. Some of the earlier crops that were put in and matured early have had issues with falling numbers," he said

"But as farmers get into their later crops, we are starting to see the quality improve."

Mr Gray said total delivery estimates for the Geraldton zone's 2014 season had been revised down 10 per cent to 2.1-2.2 million tonnes, which he said was just below average.

"Northern farmers are already half way and some are going to finish soon, so we are downplaying the forecast somewhat," he said.

In the Kwinana Zone, growers who missed the hailstorm two weekends ago are back on headers this week, with more than 400,000 tonnes already delivered.

Zone manager Gavin Bignell said while the start had been slow, the zone was well ahead of deliveries at this time last year.

Mr Bignell said he was still anticipating total deliveries of 6.5 million tonnes for the zone, which was well above average, but down on last year's tonnage.

He said there hadn't yet been any negative impacts from the recent bad weather, saying it was still "early days yet".

Farmers in the Esperance region are estimated to deliver 1.65 million tonnes in the zone, and have so far delivered just over 61,000, according to CBH Esperance Zone manager Mick Daw.

He was anticipating only an average year for the zone.

"Canola yields aren't anything to write home about at the moment," he said.

"We opened almost a week ago, but with the rainfall over the last weekend, it's really taken up until now to get things cranking again. "

Mr Daw said all bins throughout the zone had opened on Monday.

CBH Albany zone manager Greg Thornton said while the first delivery for the Albany zone had come in on October 17, harvest had really only started on Monday for growers in the northern, eastern and south eastern parts of the zone.

He said canola was being delivered to receival sites at Hyden, Newdegate and Gardiner. In these first deliveries, he said oil content had been good.

"We estimate 3.25 million tonnes coming into the Albany zone this year, which is slightly less than last year's record receivals," he said.

Mr Thornton said CBH had moved 3.2 million tonnes from the zone in the past 12 months, and would have a 300,000-tonne carry over.

"Historically, it's early, but tonnage received so far has been similar to last year," he said.

A CBH spokeswoman said total harvest estimates had been revised down to 13.45 million tonnes, falling short of last year's record total of 15.8 million tones across the State.

She said CBH had so far recorded deliveries of more than 950,000 tonnes this season.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails