Farmers set to benefit from good start

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

WA farmers are set to reap the benefits of a huge jump in grain production after a flying start to the season.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences tipped crop production to increase by 25 per cent to 13.6 million tonnes after a very dry season in 2012-13.

It also dispelled fears that big tracts of land would go unfarmed because of the rural debt crisis, with the crop area increasing by 2 per cent to 7.8 million hectares.

ABARES cited favourable prices as a factor behind a 3 per cent rise in wheat planting to 4.9 million hectares. Wheat production was forecast to increase by 29 per cent to 8.8mt. WA was on target for a record canola harvest of 1.4mt (up 16 per cent), with barley production at 2.2mt (up 12 per cent) and lupins production to more than double to 635,000t.

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Department of Agriculture and Food WA grain industry director David Bowran said the forecast for a 13.6mt harvest was reasonable after what most industry players agreed was the best start to a season in a decade.

Dr Bowran said there were only very small areas of the Wheatbelt where crops were not already "out of the ground". "A lot of crops are more advanced that we have seen for a long time because they have gone in early, had warm conditions and good soil moisture," he said.

"There are already canola crops running into flower and you wouldn't normally expect that for another month."

Dr Bowran said grain growers could also take heart from the recent decline in the value of the Australian dollar and potential crop damage from flooding in Europe and climatic extremes in the US. "For the first time in a decade it looks as though a combination of climate, price and demand could come together favourably for WA growers," he said.

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