Australia's bumper harvest leads to grainships being heavily booked for the next six months


A record grain harvest is causing bottlenecks on the way to port terminals, where exportships are heavily booked for the next six months.

A factor preventing more coming through is the limited investment in inland rail, which results in slower and fewer trains and difficulties with grainstorage.

The bumper harvest means upgraded grain terminals at Port Kembla, south of Sydney, are expected to load more than 2 million tonnes of grain in the next year.

"It's a big harvest and we're doing our best to keep up with it," said Dene Ladmore, the terminal manager from new consortium Quattro Ports.

The Port Kembla skyline is dominated by massive silos and conveyor belts, which move and store hundreds of thousands of tonnes of wheat, canola and some barley.

Quattro is a consortium of the Japanese-owned Emerald, China's COFCO, the US-based Cargill Australia and logistics company Qube.

The $75 million combined investment at Port Kembla included 17 silos and dredging to cater for larger export ships.

"We have 100,000 tonnes of storage capacity. That's approximately two ships of cargo so you can be loading one and accumulating for the next vessel coming in," Mr Ladmore said.

"We have eight very large silos, 10,000 tonnes and nine small silos.

"We can store different grades and commodities in a different silo and you can also fumigate [and] lock it down for a few days for the gas.

"It's a rare thing that we do find bugs. But we have been fumigating a little bit lately, because the grain is going to India, and fumigating is a requirement."

Exporting Australian grain around the globe

Commodity forecaster ABARES said in December that Australia's wheat crop would be a record 32.6 million tonnes, nearly 3 million tonnes more than 2011/12.

Victoria doubled its wheat production compared to last year, while in NSW the crop was near record levels.

Grain traders have this year been taking advantage of a short-term tariff concession in India for wheat.

Mr Ladmore said Quattro had a six-month timetable of shipping, with markets in China, Nigeria, the MiddleEast, and the UK for canola.

GrainCorp's Nigel Lotz said his company was half way through its promised $200 million spend on regenerating upcountry storage and rail.

He said company had done its best it to limit bottlenecks between farms and exports.

"In Victoria, [it's been a] huge challenge there, we've had three times more grain in terms of our own network,"

"We've had growers down there saying it's the biggest harvest ever."


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