Frost takes $140 million off WA grain crop forecast value

05.10.2016

In just one month, frost, water logging and isolated dry conditions have wiped $140 million off the value of Western Australia's 2016 harvest.

That's according to the Grain Industry Association of Western Australia, which has revised down its harvest estimate by 700,000 tonnes since it's September estimate.

WA farmers are now expected to harvest 16.9 million tonnes of crop this year.

The largest harvest in the state's history was 17 million tonnes in 2013.

The GIWA October crop report detailed the frost damage, which mainly hit wheat and barley crops.

"September saw the coldest average minimum temperatures on record across most of the grainbelt," the report stated.

"Frost events occurred regularly from August in many districts and caused localised losses in early sown barley and wheat crops.

"Two very cold frosts on September 17/18 and 23/24 in the Lakes region have caused large losses of grain in barley and wheat with lesser effect on canola and lupins.

    "Cereal yield potential has declined by around 25 per cent in this region as a result."

Alan Meldrum, who compiled GIWA's October crop report, said the severe September frosts, which had taken some yield potential, were unusual but not unheard of.

"It happens occasionally, we had very severe frost in the late 1990s, which took out many hundreds of thousands of tonnes, it's not an annual event certainly and it's very unfortunate," he said.

"Frost is an annual risk, but it doesn't often come in with this sort of severity.

"It's significant from the point of view of the impact on the local districts that have suffered the biggest damage.

"But to put it in perspective, about 4 per cent of the expected tonnage has been lost, so the number is large but in terms of the total production of the state's crop it's 4 per cent and the West Australian grain crop in general is going to be very good.

"So the 2016 season is still going to be one of remarkable yields and very, very good production levels right across the state for the vast majority of the farming community.

    "Seven hundred thousand tonnes at about $200 a tonne would equal about 140 million dollars. So a substantial loss across a range of growers where the impact has been strongest."

Mr Meldrum said the estimate of 16.9 million tonnes could again be revised.

"We don't know until the headers get rolling," he said.

"We can only hope that the impact isn't as strong as we think it is."


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