West Australian growers overcome rollercoaster season to reap record grain harvest


West Australian growers have overcome a number of setbacks to deliver the largest crop harvest in the state's history.

CBH Group said the harvest surpassed the 15.86-million-tonne haul from the 2013-2014 season on Thursday, with grain still being delivered.

Predictions of a record harvest earlier this year were dampened with frosts in August and September causing significant crop damage in many regions.

CBH Group general manager of operations David Capper said the season started with exceptional rainfall and growing conditions, but turned into a rollercoaster ride for many.

"This presented the industry a real challenge in trying to understand the expected size of the crop," he said.

"It's fantastic to see yields have surpassed expectations in non-frost affected areas and the crop has come in thick and fast, delivering the state the largest grain harvest in history."
Frost not as bad as anticipated
WA Farmers grain section president Duncan Young said the record harvest was due to high rainfall.

He said the frost turned out not to be as bad as anticipated for many growers.

"I think the level of frost, while initially they thought it was pretty high, I think some farmers when they've got into paddocks have actually found that the frost hasn't affected them as greatly as they first thought," he said.

"Hence we have a higher estimate [just under 16 million tonnes of grain] than the revised estimate just prior to harvest and at the start of harvest."

Mr Young said some parts of the state had performed better than others.

"Some of the northern Wheatbelt did very well," he said.

"Canola was certainly the shining light and in some areas barley, but then in other areas barley got hit by frost, so I think it's very much a mixed bag this year."

Harvest frustrating for some

Mr Capper said the news of the record tonnage would be bittersweet for some who did suffer from weather conditions.

"Everybody has had a frustrating harvest," Mr Capper said.

"There's been a lot of blending in paddocks, there's been a lot of down-graded grain due to frost and other reasons.

"There's been a lot of growers who have struggled with very wet conditions early in the year which we've almost forgotten about after the frosts, but there was a big area of the state that struggled with waterlogging for a big part of the year.

"So it is absolutely bittersweet but still, in the lead up to New Year, we can take a small celebration to say that as an industry, we've broken another record.

"It really shows the continuous growth of the grains industry in WA and the continuous yield growth and innovation of WA growers."

Grain price subdues celebrations

Mr Young said while it was a good harvest the poor price of grain would dampen celebrations.

"I think they [farmers] are happier than they were at the start of harvest; it would just be nice if grain prices were higher than they are at the moment," he said.

"I think most people are happy but it's very rare to get a good season and good grain prices at the same time."

Meanwhile Mr Capper said the amount of grain being delivered put some CBH sites under pressure and he thanked growers for their patience.

He was expecting the bin-busting tonnage to surpass 16 million tonne by Friday afternoon.

"What's to come after that is anybody's guess but we're still receiving over 100,000 tonnes a day," Mr Capper said.

"Most of that is coming from a strip from Brookton to Albany ... but there's lots of areas around the state still receiving grain.

"There have been sites which have filled early and the additional segregations, particularly in coarse grains, have placed extra pressure on our sites.

"A harvest of this size is a testament to the innovative and resilient grain growers of Western Australia and CBH is proud to operate their storage and handling network for their benefit."


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