Relief as last grain trickles into State�s silos

Kate Pollard and Haidee VandenbergheThe West Australian

Grain is continuing to trickle into CBH receival points, with 19 sites across the State still receiving a daily total of about 10,000 tonnes as of early this week.

CBH grains operation manager David Capper said just another 50,000 to 60,000t of grain remained to be delivered, with the group already having surpassed its estimate and cracking nine million tonnes earlier this week.

This includes just over 2 million tonnes at Albany, 1.5mt at Geraldton, 3.7mt for Kwinana and 1.6mt at Esperance.

"It was certainly a quick start to harvest - the fastest we've experienced," Mr Capper said.

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"Normally we would expect to receive about 100,000t by the end of October, this year we had received 650,000t and had 100 sites open."

But despite beginning with a bang, wet weather repeatedly made harvest grind to a halt, with almost 850,000t of wheat tested using falling numbers machines.

Of the sites still open, Cranbrook is receiving the most tonnes of grain and Mr Capper said he expected growers to still be delivering there for another couple of weeks.

On Tuesday, with the final laps in sight, Cranbrook grower Twynam Cunningham had just 40ha of canola to go before he could finally say the season was in the bin.

While they did not get as much rain as others, the Cunninghams did record 30mm over harvest, which when combined with harvest bans slowed things up.

But Mr Cunningham was upbeat about yields and quality, given the amount of growing season rain.

"On-farm technology has improved so much over the years and to grow a 2.5t/ha wheat crop on the rain we've had, I think it's amazing," he said.

"Our canola averaged 1.2t/ha which isn't too bad and two years ago, with slightly less rain we averaged 300kg/ha."

The Cunninghams' average rainfall is 450mm and in 2012, they recorded 310mm including 253mm from April to October.

It has been one of the driest years in 54 years of rainfall records kept on the farm.

"Even though we had no rainfall in October, it's remarkable how well the wheat and canola stood up to it," Mr Cunningham said.

"The barley laid down a bit but the wheat was incredible. No wonder they grow so much in the Wheatbelt."

Growing Mace wheat for the first time in 2012 also helped improve yields and quality, with it all going into the Hard 2 stack.

Across the State, good wheat quality was a boon for many growers, particularly in the face of lower than average yields, and according to CBH Grain general manager of marketing and trading Jason Craig, high-protein wheat is continuing to attract demand.

"Obviously cash prices have come off as Chicago has fallen and they're back around the $300 a tonne level," he said.

"But we are starting to see some good interest from the Middle East and Africa for high-protein wheat, which is suiting WA well, given this year has had higher protein."

Moving forward into the next six months, Mr Craig said WA wheat prices could drop if the northern hemisphere's crops were large.

It is a view shared by Plum Grove senior commodity trader Tony Smith, who said although hard red winter crops had been disappointing in the US, with the size of spring plantings in the northern hemisphere even average yields would result in an abundance of grain.

"If they get normal conditions… prices could take the next step down," he said.

With harvest pretty much in the bag, like most growers Mr Cunningham is already well versed in his plan for 2013-14.

"We planned this coming season back in October and will continue down the same path which is roughly half canola, with a touch of lupins and half cereals," he said.

One decision to be made is whether or not to run more wethers, given the fall in price for wether lambs.

"We might drop the cropping down a tad from 50/50 to 55 per cent livestock and 45 per cent cropping," Mr Cunningham said.

"It's something we will have to finetune.

"We crop because it makes economic sense. It's not my passion and I hate machinery."

On the wish list for 2013 is a wet year to help fill dams for stock water.

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