Farmers celebrate bumper harvest

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Tammin farmer Tony York.
Camera IconTammin farmer Tony York. Credit: Ian Munro/The West Australian

WA farmers have fought back from the brink of disaster to deliver the State's biggest grain harvest and a $5 billion-plus boost for the WA economy five days from Christmas.

The record of 15.06 million tonnes delivered to Co-operative Bulk Handling by yesterday highlights a massive turnaround in what has been WA farming's most remarkable season.

The size and the speed of the great grain harvest has shocked industry veterans who feared the worst when virtually no rain fell in the Wheatbelt in June and July.

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The crop has broken scores of records and put hundreds of farmers back on their financial feet after a run of poor seasons.

It has coincided with strong grain prices of more than $320 a tonne overall, unlike 2011-12 when the previous biggest harvest was soured by low prices.

CBH's Esperance and Albany port zones received more grain than ever and Kwinana is close to its record as farmers in many districts celebrate best-ever yields.

Daily grain delivery records were broken at 54 CBH receival sites in the Wheatbelt and on two days last month almost 500,000 tonnes poured into its facilities.

CBH operations manger David Capper said the grower-owned co-operative had been bracing for a lower than average harvest of about 8mt at the end of July.

But rain in August and September and good weather since allowed WA's highly skilled farmers to reap the rewards of their investments in technology and machinery.

"Given where we were in August, to break our receival record before Christmas is astounding," Mr Capper said yesterday, with total receivals at 15.1mt.

"It has taken a little over a month to harvest and bring it in, it will take us 12 months to get it all to port and it will be exported to help feed billions of people."

A load of 55 tonnes of wheat delivered to the Lake King receival site at 12.23pm by Mr Capper's uncle Tom Capper tipped the harvest into record territory.

CBH expects a final figure of about 15.2mt as the flood slows to a trickle over the next few weeks.

Though CBH keeps harvest records, it is estimated an additional 1mt will be handled outside its supply chain to put the total harvest well over 16mt.

Department of Agriculture and Food WA grain industry director David Bowran said the bumper crop would add more than $5 billion to the economy and potentially much more if the value of the Australian dollar fell over the next six months.

WAFarmers vice-president Tony York, who is still harvesting on his Tammin property, said the turnaround had been incredible.

Mr York said he and many other farmers would use much of their profits to pay back debt.

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