WESTERN Australia’s winter crop now being harvested is forecast to produce 14.51 million tonnes (Mt) of grain, down 44 percent on the record 26.06Mt crop harvested last year, according to the Grain Industry Association of WA (GIWA) November Crop Report.
GIWA in July released its initial production estimate for the crop now being harvested at 18.14Mt, but a lack of rain in most areas has seen the forecast slide every month since.
Report author Michael Lamond said WA’s harvest was on track to be mostly finished by the end of December, several weeks earlier than normal.
“The short sharp finish to the growing season resulted in an earlier start to harvest than in previous years for many growers,” Mr Lamond said.
“This, combined with lower yields in all crops, increased capacity from investment in machinery following the last couple of high production years, and good harvesting conditions, has meant growers are ahead of where they would normally be at this time of the year.
“The rain and hail this week across some parts of the central and southern regions has put the brakes on harvesting for a few days, although most growers will be under way again before the end of the week.”
Mr Lamond said late-sown crops have struggled across the board and combined with the short, hard finish to the season, most yields are below expectations and are well below average.
“This has resulted in the estimated total harvest tonnage now being a little over 14.5Mt, down 445,000t on the October estimates.”
Across the commodities since last month’s report, GIWA’s wheat estimate has dropped 275,000t, barley is down 190,000t, and oats has dropped 30,000t, while canola is up 50,000t.
Mr Lamond said while there have been some surprises in better-than-expected grain quality, yields have mostly been a little lower than expected, and this trend is likely to continue as more crop comes off in the southern regions.
“The timing of crop emergence has had the largest impact on final grain yield this year, with the early-sown crops out-yielding the later sown crops by a fair margin.
“The lack of spring rain has effectively shortened the season and severely limited the potential of any crops that were later emerging.”
Mr Lamond said barley has been the standout crop so far, except in the very dry regions in the north of the state.
“There has been a good strike rate of grain making malt in the central regions, although this falls away as you move further south in the state.”
Mr Lamond said retention, or grain size, has been surprisingly good in some areas, although further south in the Esperance and Albany port zones, retention has been poor and very few loads have made malting, either due to low retention (high screenings) or high protein.
“Canola yields are much lower than the previous years, although the overall state average will be in excess of 1.2t/ha, which is close to long-term averages.
“The majority of wheat crops have suffered from the hot dry finish and grain yields have been coming in lower than anticipated at the start of harvest.”
Further detail on crop conditions in individual WA port zones can be found as part of the full report on the GIWA website.