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Grain harvest on east coast eclipsed by Victorian town of Nhill as it bucks the trend caused by drought

Sean Wales, Thursday January 17, 2019 - 14:42 EDT
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This one delivery site received more tonnes of grain than the entire state of Queensland this harvest. - ABC

The western Victorian town of Nhill has supplied more grain to one of the country's largest handlers than all of Queensland combined.

With a population of about 2,000 people, GrainCorp's receival site at Nhill has brought in more than 150,000 tonnes, compared to almost 108,000 tonnes in all of Queensland.

The company's final harvest report reveals drought conditions continue to decimate grain figures on the eastern seaboard, while farmers in Victoria's west have experienced a good harvest.

Brett Wheaton farms 26 kilometres north west of Nhill and supplies some of his yields to GrainCorp.

He said grower confidence in Victoria's far west was increasing.

"We have had a fantastic season compared to others, and considering on my property we have had frost, a lack of rain and a few other issues, you'd have to say most farmers would be pretty happy with how it has ended up," he said.

Mr Wheaton sits on the Nhill Growers Committee and said they had estimated for up to 90,000 tonnes of grain to be supplied to the Nhill site.

"We have almost doubled that and there's a lot of people storing grain on their farms too, so that figure at GrainCorp isn't all the grain from the region," he said.

The previous harvest was also a great one for western Victoria, with GrainCorp's final harvest report from 2017-18 revealing Nhill brought in almost 180,000 tonnes.

"Machinery does date and wear out and you can replace that if you have funds available, and this is a year where we should have that," Mr Wheaton said.

"Most people would be thankful for what they got this year and go into the next year with confidence."

GrainCorp's general manager of operations Nigel Lotz said the Nhill receival site was a standout across the company's network.

Grain numbers decimated on eastern coast

It's a different story for the country's east, with GrainCorp's final harvest numbers revealing ongoing drought conditions .

The company brought in 107,900 tonnes of grain to its Queensland sites from last year's winter crop.

That figure is less than a fifth of the amount of grain the company received during the previous harvest.

It was a similarly bleak picture in New South Wales, with grain harvest numbers dropping by a third.

Despite strong yields in western Victoria, figures across the entire state had halved from the previous harvest.

Mr Lotz said due to a high domestic demand for grain, it was unlikely the company would be able to export much hay this year.

"There's a deficit of grain on the east coast — we've got a huge domestic demand, so our exportable surplus is not going to be there," he said.

"A lot of this grain will stay on the east coast."

Bakers Delight affected by grain shortage

Meanwhile, Australia's biggest bakery franchise said it was expecting increases in the cost of flour to be passed onto customers in the coming weeks, as stores across the country respond to a poor harvest.

Bakers Delight chief executive David Christie said the franchise was working to manage a 22 per cent hike in the price of flour as a result.

"You've got customers, you've got small business owners, and you've got suppliers and farmers — in the perfect situation, everyone shares the burden and waits for the better times to return," he said.

"We locked in a flour price of about a 22 per cent increase on the previous year — that became effective from the first of January and will flow through until the next harvest, which hopefully is a much better one."

Grain Producers Australia chairman Andrew Weidemann said providing enough grain to associated industries was now a focal point.

"We did know that a bad season was on the cards, but now we are obviously concerned for all of our associated industries to have enough grain to meet their demand through 2019," he said.


© ABC 2019

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