Grain growers will harvest Australia’s largest ever crop this year, according to the federal government forecaster.
- Government forecaster ABARES expects a record winter grain harvest this year
- Growers dealing with floods and heavy rain fear they will miss out on historically high prices
- Damaged crops will be downgraded and sold for lower prices
But there are fears that recent rain and flooding in eastern states will mean farmers miss out on historically high prices.
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences expects 58.4 million tonnes will be harvested for the 2021-22 season, driven by record production in Western Australia and the second largest crop expected in New South Wales.
It has not yet estimated the value of crop production.
ABARES executive director Jared Greenville says rainfall throughout the year had driven production, expected to be up 5 per cent on last year’s bumper harvest.
“It’s basically because of the weather,” Dr Greenville said.
“We’ve had good conditions on the west coast, and good conditions on the east coast … [because of that] we’re looking at the biggest ever winter crop produced in Australia.”
ABARES expects a record wheat crop will be harvested at an estimated 34.4 million tonnes.
Despite trade lost to sanctions imposed by China, ABARES said Australia’s second largest barley crop will be harvested at 13.3 million tonnes, and a further 5.7 million tonnes of canola is expected.
That is 27 per cent more than the previous record set last year.
Rain, flooding to reduce returns for growers in the east
With grain growers in NSW and southern Queensland struggling to harvest due to recent rains and flooding, there are fears some crop could be lost or will be significantly downgraded.
Dr Greenville said the rain had “taken the shine off in some areas” and it was likely grain that had been expected to be sold for human consumption would now be sold for livestock at a cheaper rate.
NSW grain broker Machallie McCormack said drought in other grain producing countries has driven global prices and Australia farmers had hoped to cash in on historically high prices this harvest.
“This year, we have had the fortune of going into this harvest with the potential of a great crop with great prices; it was looking really good, until the rain started falling,” Ms McCormack said.
“We’ve just had rainfall events every week for the past three or four weeks, especially in northern NSW and southern Queensland … which is great if you’re a grazier but for croppers it hasn’t been the best news,” she said.
Ms McCormack said the situation was “ever changing daily” but the industry was beginning to see the downgrading of a lot of crops due to recent east coast rain.
Ms McCormack said it was likely that growers would still harvest the majority of grain, but the returns would be reduced with grain downgraded.
“There’s a lot of disappointment out there; as much as we still have the tonnes and there is a commodity still there to sell, it’s not as good as what it could have been,” Ms McCormack said.
“So, it’s the loss of what could have been … which is farming, in a lot of respects.”
Western Australia’s belter
According to ABARES, Western Australia — the nation’s largest grain growing state — is expected to harvest a record 21.2 million tonnes of grain this harvest.
For Mark Flannagan, who farms with his brother John, at Pindar about 140 km east of Geraldton, the 2021-22 growing season has been one out of the box.
“It’s a big one,” Mr Flannagan said at the mid-way mark of his harvest.
Acknowledging there is still “a long way to go” before the harvest wraps up for the year Mr Flanagan said growers in his community were upbeat.
“We’re very happy. You can’t complain; prices are good, most people are very, very happy.”
Mr Flannagan said good summer rain, followed by unusual rainfall in July had helped his crop this year.
“In July it just kept raining and raining and we thought it was never going to stop raining, but it stopped in August …. In the end it managed to drink the water and finish the crop and quality is good and yields are way up”.
“We’re sitting probably somewhere 3–3.5 tonne per hectare as an average, and we we’d normally say 2–2.5 tonnes per hectare is exceptional so we’re definitely above that.”
Mr Flannagan said this would be a year to remember.
“Sometimes you wonder what you’re doing out here, but every now and again you get one (a harvest) that is pretty good… You need a good one every now again to keep you interested.”