'Incredible' harvest breaks record

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

WA's bumper grain crop is already breaking records after farmers around Esperance ended October with huge Halloween deliveries to CBH receival bins.

Esperance with 26,242 tonnes and Grass Patch with 10,451t broke daily grain receival records on October 31 and that is just the tip of the iceberg as the wheat harvest begins in earnest.

CBH Esperance zone manager Mick Daw said he had "never seen anything like it".

Mr Daw described breaking daily receival records in October as barley harvests of up to 4t/ha rolled in as "incredible".

"The last truck was sampled at 9.15pm after we started at 7am. And we'll smash those records again once we hit wheat," Mr Daw said.

Grass Patch grower Chris Hallam, who has finished harvesting 500ha of barley and started on his 1600ha wheat crop, said he was amazed at what the region had produced.

"I've never harvested a grain crop like this," Mr Hallam said.

CBH revealed yesterday that grain receivals in WA last month hit 779,952t, breaking the October record by more than 150,000t.

The Esperance zone accounted for 334,883t, Geraldton 266,695t, Kwinana 176,648t and Albany 26,669t.

The co-operative is sticking to its conservative forecast of a 13 million tonne harvest despite the record-breaking start.

Mr Daw said CBH had plans for emergency storage in the Esperance zone and was boosting its shipping capacity in preparation for an unprecedented harvest.

"I'm confident with the 2.5mt forecast, which is 400,000t more than we have ever had but in saying that it could exceed it by quite a bit. I wouldn't like to say by how much because it worries me at night," he said. "Barley and wheat yields are still exceptional with many growers averaging around 4t/ha."

Mr Hallam said the bumper crop had followed three disastrous seasons.

"For us to come off the three worst years on record and to have one like this is definitely going to dig us out of the overdraft but we could do with stringing a few together," he said.

"Spare a thought for guys out around Southern Cross who have had a run of terrible years and are still doing it tough."

Mr Hallam's 69-year-old father John played a key role in organising donations of hay and old-season grain from the Grass Patch district to farmers on the edge of the eastern Wheatbelt where crops failed.

CBH marketing and trading manager Jason Craig said growers delayed selling wheat last week as prices were under $300/t.

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