Wheat price holds up for bumper crop

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

The WA grains industry could reap almost $4 billion through high wheat prices and a bumper harvest this season.

The wheat price has defied market forecasts to rally back to about $300 a tonne in recent weeks, potentially adding millions to the balance sheets of WA farmers.

Wheat is planted on more than 4.1 million hectares and some growers are predicting yields of up to 4tonnes/ha from "crops of a lifetime".

Highbury farmer Ashley Wiese said it was rare for a bumper harvest to coincide with strong wheat prices.

He said the risk of frost was just about over and confidence had returned to the industry, with the start of harvest about a month away in many districts.

"There are people who were in a pretty bad situation who now have confidence to invest in new machinery, but it will take more than just one good year," Mr Wiese said. "The last few seasons put a big dent in equity.

"One good year does a lot of good but is not enough to get people back to where they were a couple of years ago."

On his farm, barley heads were touching and seed pods bulging in canola crops.

Mr Wiese said the price was fantastic for farmers with wheat crops but farmers in the eastern and northern fringes of the Wheatbelt were missing out on the bumper season.

Plum Grove commodity trader David Pritchard said strong demand from China had helped to keep the wheat price high.

"For the past three or four months, the fundamentals have been pointing to a softening of wheat prices for growers but the price has held up remarkably well," he said.

Increased demand from China appeared to have lessened the impact of a big US corn crop on Australian wheat prices.

"If China has even a one, 2 or 3 per cent hiccup in local production, it translates to them needing to import millions and millions of tonnes of wheat," Mr Pritchard said.

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