Records in tough grain year

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

WA growers have defied the odds and produced their fourth-largest grain harvest on record, with the 13.6 million tonnes delivered estimated to be worth $3.8 billion to the WA economy.

In what has been described as a difficult production year with a string of adverse weather conditions, Co-operative Bulk Handling has officially called time on the 2015-6 harvest season.

While growers couldn't manage to topple the 2013-14 record harvest of 15.9 million tonnes, CBH Group general manager David Capper said it was still a solid year for WA grain production.

Mr Capper said the 13.6 million tonnes was equal to the deliveries received last harvest.

"This year's crop went into moderate moisture but we had a very dry July followed by almost no rain in September, coupled with losses to frost, hail, terrible winds and fires, so when you add all those things up, achieving an above average crop was a good result," he said.

"It's a credit to growers and their skill when it comes to farming practices and productivity."

Mr Capper said the 2015-16 harvest was a season of records, including Australia's largest ever canola shipment, and the movement of record tonnage by CBH and Watco in the month of December.

But across the port zones, only Esperance achieved record deliveries, with 2.667 million tonnes received into the CBH system.

The Esperance port site of Chadwick also smashed its site delivery record, with 1.2 million tonnes delivered.

Kwinana Zone, the largest of all the delivery zones, received 5.88 million tonnes, Geraldton received 2.355 million tonnes and Albany received 2.66 million tonnes.

Mr Capper said the cut-off dates for optimising wheat had also ended, with the program providing growers an approximate additional $2.50 a tonne for wheat.

Profarmer chief analyst Hannah Janson said wheat prices remained relatively flat over the last week despite offshore futures fluctuating heavily.

"The devaluation of the Australia dollar since the new year has supported domestic prices despite the volatility of international pricing," she said.

"But whilst Kwinana values found support in early January, we are now seeing prices back at the levels that we saw through mid December."

She said while local premiums traditionally come under pressure during the harvest period, a short- term kick in pricing in December reflected moves in offshore markets and some buyer uncertainty about the quality of the WA crop.

"There were a few factors influencing prices throughout harvest, particularly the tight finish and news about high screenings, and untimely rains … unfortunately, overall the global market remains awash with wheat at the moment and this is keeping a cap on values," she said.

"However, we remain hopeful that uncertainty in the lead-up to northern hemisphere harvest may generate opportunity in the coming months."

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