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Rain hits wheat harvest in southern NSW with shortage of bread flour predicted

By Sarina Locke, Monday December 4, 2017 - 16:27 EDT
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Harvesters worked around the clock to get wheat into silos before the weekend's downpour. - ABC

The weekend's torrential rain has pelted the grain belt in southern New South Wales with farmers predicting a shortage of high quality milling wheat for bread.

The Bureau of Meteorology gave plenty of warning, but for southern NSW grain farmers like Murray Scholz, there were not enough hours in the day to harvest.

"There was a lot of activity on Thursday night, but we've only got about 10 per cent of our wheat harvested, and there's bad sprouting damage in some varieties," Mr Scholz said from his property at Culcairn.

With 80mm of rain over the weekend, what looked like a bumper harvest of milling wheat now is expected to be downgraded to stock feed quality.

"Probably one of the most disheartening weekends we've ever had," Mr Scholz said.

"Because the yields were [looking to be] better than expected, [given] the dry spring and all the frosts, it was pleasing to see better yields.

"We were expecting exceptional quality — Prime Hard and H2 but now we're going to have a lot of feed grain."

That will be a big impact on returns to growers.

Grain harvested prior to the storm now in Victorian silos

A Victorian grain grower believes farmers mostly "won the get-out-of-jail card in Monopoly".

Andrew Weidemann at Rupanyup on the Wimmera could not find a better analogy for the weekend's rain.

"Significantly the rainfall that was forecast had us worried, but we really didn't get the rain that was predicted," he said.

"The north east was our concern, where rainfall was greater than 50mm."

But he said the cool drying weather after the rain will mean the grain will dry out.

"Other than a bit of weight loss and colour stain in the grain, we might not see any significant damage in the crop itself."

It has been a nail-biting summer, with a dry winter, and frosts during spring.

But in preparation for the rain, harvesters worked around the clock to get the grain off.

"They're almost finished in the Mallee, and they were exceeding 1,200 to 1,500 tonne a day; it was incredible," Mr Weidemann said.

The quality was reaching H2 (milling quality) prior to the rain.

Mr Weidemann was grateful for the warnings from the Bureau of Meteorology.

"I think the weather bureau have done a good job in preparing us, given the massive amount of rain in the north east of the state."

"[They] did a good job alerting us to the potential of this and farmers have learnt through events and field days, everyone was on the same page as what this weather could have meant in damage to the crop."


© ABC 2017

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