Second biggest harvest wraps up in Western Australia

24.01.2019

WA has officially posted its second biggest harvest on record with estimates sitting at just short of 18 million tonnes.

And at current grain prices it is also adding up to one of the most valuable crops ever produced in this State at just under $7 billion.

With 16.37 million tonnes of grain (as of last Friday) received by CBH over the 2018-2019 harvest, plus what is held on-farm for seed and feed requirements and the grain traded outside the CBH network, which would add another 1.5mt on top of that, then it adds up to one significant harvest.

Author of the Grain Industry Association of WA’s monthly crop report Michael Lamond said it was the second largest crop in WA ever and the highest in value.

“Based on current prices the total value of this harvest would be just under $7b,” Mr Lamond said.

“This year’s harvest was driven by the Kwinana zone which posted a record for receivals and the Geraldton zone which delivered 3.3mt to CBH and when you add another 7pc on top of that (for grain outside the CBH network) and it was way over estimates.

“That is one million tonnes up on the 2017 harvest for the Geraldton zone, which was 1.5mt in what was a poor year for them.

“The Kwinana zone had a sensational result and this came from the performance of crops in the west of that zone, where a number of bins broke receival records.

“The Albany zone obviously had some areas that were hit by a tough season, in particular through Pingrup and out to the Lakes region and so this impacted on that region’s tonnages.

“Esperance finished up at about 2.5mt, on the back of a record 3mt harvest last year and again, regions to the west of that zone were impacted by a poor season, which influenced that result.”

Mr Lamond said there were a few interesting statistics to come out of this year’s harvest.

“Noodle wheat saw an increase in production of 45 per cent,” he said.

“Noodle deliveries were at 800,000-900,000t last year and there was a massive increase in plantings this year meaning deliveries at 1.5mt-1.6mt were close to double what they were last year.

“We were definitely expecting over 1mt but not the 1.5mt mark, which is an incredible change on last year.

“This just shows the reaction to price signals.

“After a poor year in 2017, Noodle varieties were grown pretty much wall-to-wall in 2018.”

Mr Lamond said there was also a record production of barley in 2018-2019.

“Just over 5mt of barley was grown this harvest,” he said.

“There was a record area planted and record production, while the area of wheat planted was the lowest on record at 54pc.

“This has been declining over time with barley and canola plantings increasing in its place.

“Quality-wise it was also a good year for barley with about 60pc of barley going Malt.

“Usually that sits at about 50pc, so there has been a 10pc increase for this harvest.

“This is reflected in the higher rainfall areas where there was a big increase in barley plantings, those areas were able to maximise the season as it played out through the year and were able to keep boosting their crops with fertiliser.”

Mr Lamond said other factors in increases in barley production were price signals and the late break to the season.

“There was forward selling at the start of the season at $360 a tonne for feed barley and so that was a high price, particularly in relation to wheat at the time,” he said.

“Also as the season got later, there was a lot of canola sown without any herbicide and as the season went on country initially earmarked for canola went to barley.”

Mr Lamond said the wheat crop was impacted by a dry spring in many areas and could have been much greater if the rain in early October arrived just a few weeks earlier.

“In terms of wheat production, there was less of the higher protein premium grades produced this year compared to 2017,” he said.

“This is a continuing trend from previous years and the percentage change in ASW would have been greater if there was not the massive swing to Noodle grades.

“While nitrogen fertiliser usage was higher in 2018 than recent years the decline in APW grades is in part a reflection of the situation in the medium to low rainfall areas where as soon as it went dry in mid-August, everyone just shut up shop and then they got a dilution in protein from higher than expected yields when the season finished off well.”

Mr Lamond said in some respects it was a later start than normal but harvest still finished relatively early.

“There weren’t too many growers going after the start of the New Year,” he said.

“The weather was conducive to harvesting, there weren’t a lot of harvest bans and the crops came off pretty quickly and quality was good.”

The big crop is also a reflection of the better technology and practices being used by the modern farmer.

“Adoption of technology is having a major influence on getting better crops in tougher years,” Mr Lamond said.

“Up to 80pc of the crop was sown dry last year and when it rained it was a good opening rain and excellent growing conditions for the first month or two, pretty much everywhere except the south coast and the Lakes district.”

In the past growers would not have been able to get over the ground as quickly as they can now to spray and fertilise to maximise the growing season once the season got underway.”


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