THE PROSPECT of a paltry harvest in much of Victoria and New South Wales has prompted a number of transport operators to redeploy some of their trucks for a stint of grain-carting work in Western Australia.
Bendigo-based operator, Brendan Maher, Victoria, has arranged for two two-trailer road trains, one owned by Maher’s Transport, and the other by a subcontractor, to work in WA’s Geraldton zone this harvest.
“We’ve never been over to do a harvest before, and the plan is to cart grain for six weeks,” Mr Maher said.
“We’ll bring back wheat back to sell up-country in Victoria and that will cover our fuel.
“There’s so much getting cut for hay over here that there’s not going to be much work around.”
Nichol Trading’s Brook Nichol said two of the company’s seven B-doubles left the depot in Rochester, Victoria, last Tuesday bound for six to eight weeks of work in the Geraldton zone.
“We’re hoping to cover the cost of fuel over and back when our trucks come back with a load of grain,” Mr Nichol said.
“There will be a harvest in northern Victoria, but it will be so small that growers will be able to cart it themselves.
“We’re in a typically very reliable area, but just about everything’s been cut for hay this year.”
Mr Nichol said the company’s fleet normally worked within a 500-kilometre radius of the depot, but had had to look further afield in the current harvest.
“We’ve expanded our tipper fleet with our fertiliser business, and tippers don’t do hay work.
“It’s one of those years you have to take a punt.”
Kelvin Baxter Transport principal, Kelvin Baxter, from Berrigan in NSW said his company already has four trucks operating in the Kwinana port zone around the Merredin district.
“Another two are on their way, and we might end up with anywhere between 10 and 15 over there,” Mr Baxter said.
Humphreys Bulk Haulage at Nullawil, Victoria, is also sending two trucks to WA for harvest, and Hyles Bulk Haul from Bungendore, NSW, is already operating its truck in the Geraldton zone.
Grain Central understands most of the western work lined up by eastern operators has come through connections with their WA peers.
WA bulk handler, CBH Group, received its first load of the state’s 2018-19 harvest in the Geraldton zone on October 16, and the state’s harvest is now gathering pace.
WA grower, Paul Kelly, Mingenew, is expecting to start his harvest today or tomorrow, and said below-average rainfall had taken the gloss off prospects for above-average yields.
“Early last month, we were looking at the best yields we have ever had, but we got 11 millimetres of rain instead of the average 40mm.
“We’ll still be above average, and we’re hoping for four tonnes per hectare on the cereals, and maybe 2t/ha on the canola.
“Our crops look the part, and we feel for our peers over east.”
According to the latest Grain Industry Association of WA forecast, the Geraldton and Kwinana zones are expected to produce 1.6 million tonnes (Mt) and 4Mt respectively of wheat, while the latest ABARES report pegs NSW wheat production at 2.5Mt and Victoria’s at 2.7Mt.
WA’s two northern zones alone are therefore likely to produce more wheat than NSW and Victoria combined this year.
Further downward revisions are expected in the light of crops being cut for hay in the Mallee in particular when ABARES details the 15-per-cent cut it made last week to the national winter-crop estimate.
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