WESTERN Australian grain growers are gearing up for a record harvest this year, with the state set to produce up to 12 million tonnes of wheat.
This is far above last year’s unusually low harvest of 4.6mt, and compares with a five-year average of 6.4mt.
Grain handler CBH Group says late frost and other factors could still have a big impact, with its forecast ranging from 10mt to 12mt.
The conditions in WA are in stark contrast to the eastern states, which are forecast to have below-average yields.
Consistent rainfall and mild weather have led to the positive outlook in WA, with the state’s overall grain harvest, including barley and canola, likely to be more than 16mt.
Rabobank state manager for Western Australia Crawford Taylor, commenting this week on a surprising fall in farmer confidence, said this occurred despite the state receiving rainfall across most of the Wheatbelt.
“At a general level, it is fair to say that the season has progressed well in nearly all parts of the state’s agricultural regions with finishing rains now the key for a successful season,” he said.
“The far eastern Wheatbelt is the only major concern with drier conditions.”
The prospect of a large harvest was one factor in Transport Minister Troy Buswell deciding last week that the state needed to reopen three old railway lines.
The state government is in the process of upgrading roads in the Wheatbelt, but has admitted they will not be completed ahead of this year’s harvest.
As a result, the government is accelerating spending on its $105 million road upgrade program and is investigating the extension of the operational life of three ‘tier 3’ rail lines that went into care and maintenance in June this year.
“We are looking at extending the operational life of the Quairading to York, Trayning to West Merredin, and Bruce Rock to Yilliminning lines, and I have asked Brookfield Rail to advise whether it can undertake the required works to have the lines ready,” Mr Buswell said.
He said the extension would only apply to the 2011-12 harvest.
The announcement followed a long-running debate over the future of so-called ‘tier 3’ rail lines, with the WA Farmers Federation, rural shires and CBH Group lobbying to keep them open.
CBH general manager of operations Colin Tutt said with an expected record breaking harvest this year, translating to an anticipated 2mt of grain to be transported along tier 3 lines, the announcement was timely and appreciated.