SILO bags once again look like playing a key role in managing a big harvest in what could well be wet conditions, and a late surge in sales is being seen as growers finalise their harvest strategies amid flood warnings centred in New South Wales.
Minor to major flood warnings are now in place for the Bogan, Lachlan, Macquarie and Namoi rivers,
At Gerogery in southern NSW, Silo Bag Ag principal Brett Phillips said concerns about weather, logistics and labour were all driving sales to levels in excess of last year’s.
“On bag numbers, we’re up probably 20 per cent nationally,” Mr Phillips said.
“We’re getting phone calls where blokes are getting landlocked with flooding, and putting bags and equipment on the other side of the creek.
“They’re running two farms instead of one.”
Across the entire Australian grainbelt, this season is shaping up as remarkable for having nowhere where dry conditions are limiting yield potential ahead of harvest, which will kick off in earnest in the next week in Central Queensland (CQ).
While transport operators and contractors report labour in all states is a little easier to engage now that COVID restrictions have freed up movements, the logistics task of handling a big crop is in everyone’s consciousness.
“Last year, we had Queensland conditions not as good, and northern Victoria and South Australia weren’t anywhere as good.”
Silo Bag Ag distributes Argentinian-made Pacifil bags across Australia, and bagging machines and outloaders in NSW and Victoria.
National AG managing director Colin Underwood is based at Moree, and has a client base for Argentinian-made Ipesa silo bags and associated handling equipment spread from Emerald in CQ to Lake Cargelligo in southern NSW.
“We’ve got repeat and new buyers, and demand is incredible,” Mr Underwood said.
He said constraints on the supply chain, namely pressure on rail logistics and limited truck availability, were foreseen limiters of harvest efficiency, and growers were largely prepared.
“Everyone’s been reasonably organised.”
Stocks prompt WA preparedness
In Western Australia, Landpoint Holdings is preparing for another big harvest, and is waiting on containers being transshipped through Singapore to bolster supplies.
The business imports Grainvault grain bags, which until last year were made in Argentina and Ukraine, and are now coming from Argentina alone.
ABARES has forecast a national winter crop of 55.5 million tonnes, and WA is expecting a harvest that nudges last year’s record production of just under 24Mt.
Mr Arundel said prospects for another above-average WA crop, plus awareness of stocks at bulk-handling sites across the state, were helping to fuel demand for silo bags, to cover the possibility that several million tonnes of the upcoming harvest might be beyond existing bulk handling capacity.
“CBH still has a massive carryover from the past couple of years,” Landpoint managing director Jack Arundel said.
Mr Arundel said a number of growers will buy enough bags to store “a couple of thousand tonnes” of grain if needed.
Landpoint stocks 75-metre and 100m bags, and Mr Arundel said demand was greatest for the longer version.
“We’re selling more and more 100m ones, and they store about 330 tonnes of wheat.”
Mr Arundel said Landpoint sold out of bags last year also, but later in the year.
“This year we’ve already sold out, so we put in an urgent order.”
That is yet to be delivered.
“We have containers in Singapore that have been there for ages.
“We’re now starting to sweat on them, and they’ll come direct to us, or to east-coast distributors.”
While eastern Australia’s growers are factoring in the impact of the ongoing La Niña, Mr Arundel said WA growers were hoping for the usual dry harvest.
The exceptions are the Great Southern and Esperance regions, where coastal showers often dampen harvest proceedings.
“We sell a lot of bags in that Esperance area, because you can bag grain at up to 15pc moisture and then pull it out and dry it when you have time, or shandy it with drier grain.”
Landpoint also runs a contract bagging business, and this year has a north-south run of several farms lined up on which its team of eight or nine staff expects to bag around 100,000t of grain in total.
“We’ve been approached by farmers over east but it’s just too difficult this year.”
Landpoint has taken a novel approach to the labour shortage and is employing agricultural students from New Zealand to work in its bagging team.
“We’ve been running an ad over there and we’ve got quite a few people coming over.
“We’ve always employed local backpackers, and every year we get half a dozen.”
“They’re not around like they have been, so we’re pulling people out of ag college in New Zealand once they finish for the year over there.”