GrainCorp is celebrating its millionth tonne of grain to be exported through the Port of Newcastle, mostly wheat and sorghum from the Liverpool Plains to Moree in state’s north.
- Graincorp’s Newcastle terminal will export its millionth tonne of NSW grain
- Growers say smart planning was the key in getting a decent post-drought crop
- Despite high yields, mice are causing headaches for growers and exporters
A grain ship bound for China is due to depart today taking the milestone load of sorghum.
A bumper harvest across northern New South Wales has led to a massive turnaround for grain exports through Newcastle, which have been non-existent for the past three years due to crippling drought.
GrainCorp’s Northern Supply Chain manager Josh Connell said international markets were strong and exports were ramping up.
“The limiting factor at the moment is probably more about the freight to get it to the port, not the ability to get it on a boat.”
Mr Connell said the workforce at the Newcastle terminal had expanded rapidly to handle the extra demand.
“A significant rebuild for just about all our industry, us included,” he said.
“Labour hasn’t been quite as free-flowing as we would have liked but the guys have gone from about 16 to having close to 80 on at the moment.
“So it’s a big task not only finding them but getting them all on and skilled and competent.”
Smart management the key
Around 190 kilometres north-west of the Port of Newcastle sits the Campbell family’s mixed cropping and livestock operation on the fringes of Merriwa.
Mark Campbell said last year’s yield easily outranked the past few seasons, with this year’s almost as strong.
“We’ve probably hit some new records last year, but not everything went as well as we hoped [this year] due to several environmental factors like mice and hail,” he said.
“The canola went two-and-a-half to three tonnes to the hectare, which is pretty decent.
Mr Campbell put the success of the past two crops down to his father Ron’s focus on preparation, and a conservative approach to drought management.
He said their planning prevented them from needing to use too much grain for livestock feeding.
Ron Campbell said the importance of conserving some crop for fodder was something he learned from his own father.
“We didn’t need to buy in any hay [during the drought] at all,” he said.
“That’s how we were able to jump back into growing right away.”
MarketAg grain analyst Mark Martin said despite COVID-19 and the residual impacts of the drought recent yields had been particularly strong.
He said full credit went to farmers and their strategic management of crops during and after the drought.
“In this day and age, farmers tend to rotate their country,” he said.
“Normally, say a 3,000-hectare farm would only be producing 2,000 hectares while they’re resting the other 1,000 hectares.
“Right across the board, that means a lot more hectares were planted, and now harvested.”
Mouse plague impact
The mouse plague that has been causing grief for farmers across the state has caused some issues with grain supplies.
Josh Connell said, while numbers had not been affected, the export terminal’s screening processes were ensuring the grain was not contaminated.
“There have been some issues with mouse droppings in the grain, which I don’t think comes as a surprise to anyone, which is leading to some trucks having issues,” Mr Connell said.
“It’s a nil tolerance and we’ve got to protect those international markets, but there are no vessels that have suffered delays so I like to think, as an industry, we’re finding our way through it.”
The Campbells have had loads of their grain turned away due to mouse faeces contamination.
“We don’t have a problem with having that standard in place because we’ve got to sell on the open market,” Ron Campbell said.
“It wasn’t pleasant for us, however I believe that we have to concur with a standard so that our product is then known as clean and free [of contaminants].”