‘Tis the season to celebrate

Jo FulwoodCountryman
Farmers Oscar York of Tammin, Frank O’Hare of Cunderdin and Simon York of Tammin with WAFarmers staff Kim Haywood, Melanie Dunn, Grady Powell, president Tony York, Maddison McNeil and Sara Andacic and Agriculture Minister Mark Lewis.
Camera IconFarmers Oscar York of Tammin, Frank O’Hare of Cunderdin and Simon York of Tammin with WAFarmers staff Kim Haywood, Melanie Dunn, Grady Powell, president Tony York, Maddison McNeil and Sara Andacic and Agriculture Minister Mark Lewis. Credit: Jo Fulwood

It was all smiles and Christmas cheer when Agriculture Minister Mark Lewis toured the Central Wheatbelt property of WAFarmers president Tony York during harvest.

Mr York’s Tammin farm was the perfect setting to illustrate the importance of WA’s grain industry to the new minister, with the Grains Industry Association of WA estimating WA farmers will produce more than 15.6 million tonnes for the 2016 season.

This was an upwards revision of 4.5 per cent, or 600,000 tonnes, on previous estimates.

CBH has estimated the value of the WA grain crop at between $4.5 billion and $5 billion.

CBH trading manager Jason Craig said while prices for both wheat and barley were at five-year lows, canola prices have shown some upward movements in the past few weeks.

“However, with global grain stocks still at record levels, growers shouldn’t expect any significant upwards movement in cereal values in coming months, unless we see a change in the Australian dollar or crop disruptions in the northern hemisphere,” he said.

Mr Craig said prices for feed barley and wheat appeared to have bottomed out.

“We don’t view them going a lot lower from here,” he said.

On Mr York’s Tammin property, the Hindmarsh barley crop yielded about 2.5 tonnes, which he said was still a good result despite frost damage. “We reckon we’ve lost about 20 per cent of yield across the board,” he said.

“In this particular crop, we lost up to 1.5 tonnes to frost.”

Mr York said in some paddocks, there was up to 70 per cent loss because of the frost, while others had no damage. “Our barley will average 2.8t/ha, which is a very good crop for us, so in spite of us losing what would have been an even better crop, we’ve still got a very good crop,” he said.

“This could have been the year, yes, but it will have to be next year. We’ve had a few of those.”

Mr York said while the WA harvest had been reasonably good across the grainbelt, some individual farmers would have been badly affected by both severe frosts and waterlogging, to the extent that they would see below-average yields this season.

Mr York said lower grain prices were also having an impact on profitability.

“Many are still coming to terms with the possibilities of what could have been,” he said.

“These weather phenomena are a poignant reminder of the inherent risks involved in agriculture and how we all must manage that risk as best we can.

“That said, farmers have been in the business for many years and often many generations, and in the long run they have been profitable and sustainable, enduring as an important sector of our economy and society.”

Looking to 2017, Mr Lewis said he would be focussing on reducing red tape for farmers.

“I know its glib to just say, ‘reducing red tape’ but as I go around one of the things I get is that the approvals process and the development process and the ability to get on with the job of agriculture making money for the State, creating wealth and jobs, is a critical issue, and I want to tackle that,” he said.

Mr York said he also looked forward to working with farmers, industry and government in the coming year.

“We wish all our members and the greater agricultural sector a safe and happy Christmas and a prosperous new year,” he said.

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