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Grain forecast to fall millions of tonnes short as West Australian farmers start harvest

Joanna Prendergast and Belinda Varischetti, Thursday October 15, 2020 - 12:17 EDT
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WA farmers have made a steady start to harvest programs. Some have begun on barley. - ABC

A dry finish to the grain growing season in Western Australia has wiped millions of tonnes from the state's expected harvest.

The Grains Industry Association of WA's total production estimate is expected to fall from more than 14 million tonnes forecast last month to under 12 million tonnes.

Crop report author Michael Lamond said well over a million hectares of crop had suffered damage due to a dry September across much of the state.

"With no rain, crops just can't finish properly and that's exactly what's happened," he said.

"There has been a massive slide in potential tonnage.

"What's shocked me a bit is, even in western areas, it's really slid a lot. There is a lot of potential gone.

"We'll be looking at less grain this year than last year."

The GIWA crop report figures will be released on Friday.

Brighter in the north

In the north, agronomist Simon Teakle is more optimistic about the plight of farmers in the Geraldton port zone.

"It's been a challenging year for growers with a later than optimal start, " he said.

"It's definitely been below average rainfall, but all in all I'd say most growers are reasonably happy with how the season's gone, given the amount of rain we've had."

"I think if it wasn't for . . . really good rain for August, we may have had a fairly ordinary year, but August has been the saving grace this year.

"I think that most (growers' harvests) will be about average. I think that canola and lupins will be better than expected, wheat and barley will be average or slightly below."

Barley ready to go

Gutha farmer Katrina Sasse made a slightly earlier than usual start to her program when she began harvesting barley this week.

She said the crop was performing well given it had received 180 millimetres of rain this calendar year — well below average.

"Some soils have done really well, others have fallen in a heap come September but it was a cool finish, so we're pretty happy with the result," she said.

"It seems like we're starting earlier and earlier every year. Canola usually starts first but canola is hanging on at the moment due to that cool finish.

"I love it. This is my favourite time of year. It's my favourite job on the farm."

Ms Sasse said feed barley also grew very well on her farm, but when China imposed a tariff on Australian barley, she abandoned plans for a barley program next year.

"We haven't grown barley for a fair while on our farm. It does grow very good biomass. It helps your soils," she said.

However, the China tariff had removed the potential for profit.

The CBH Group has so far had 3,000 tonnes of grain delivered from farmers across WA.


© ABC 2020

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