HIGH moisture wheat and barley could be less of a problem for southern WA graingrowers by next harvest as Cooperative Bulk Handling Ltd plans to expand aerated storage facilities.
It forms part of the provisional $75 million capital program announced last week.
CBH chairman Allan Watson said the extra aerated storage was a specific benefit and consequence of CBH and the Grain Pool working together, which would be enhanced by a merger.
The program aims to fast-track the plan to receive a 15mt WA grain crop in just 21 days by 2005 and streamline the capability for receival, storage, sampling and quality control across the grain industry.
"The provision of more aerated facilities is a major issue for many of our growers," Mr Watson said.
This was due to rain, high moisture coastal winds and dew being a common problem at harvest for south coastal farmers.
Ten days after rain, their harvesting window can be as short as one to two hours a day.
"When damp conditions prevail across the southern harvest period, the impact on quality is significant and huge losses can occur ‹ we're talking potentially $50-$100 million," Mr Watson said.
The extra aerated storage facilities should handle moisture contents from 12-14pc.
This would maximise the harvesting window, minimise the risk of deterioration prior to harvesting and minimise double handling by growers in moisture management.
"It's all about doing the job more efficiently and getting the grain in the bin faster," Mr Watson said.
The service would not be free, but on a user pays basis.
"From the CBH viewpoint, we are looking at how to manage the cost structure as we plan for and meet changing requirements," Mr Watson said.
"This will necessitate a charging system where the beneficiaries pay for the additional value-added service."
CBH maintained the move would maximise growers' returns.
These included a reduction in the harvest period, reduced waiting times at receival points and greater focus on the quality of grain being received and handled.
In addition, there would be a package of operational changes, including continuous operations, extended receival hours from 7am to midnight, on farm pick-up, increased discharge rates, rapid quality analysis, faster delivery, and a broader range of advisory and quality services.
Receival points to be fitted with aerated storage were yet to be identified.
"CBH staff are currently identifying the receival points that would deliver most advantage from aerated storage, the potential economic benefits, the infrastructure required and the most cost-effective drying options," he said.
"This analysis includes the marketing perspective on the blending of high moisture cargoes, and the discounts and costs of high moisture sales."
Grain Pool chairman Robert Sewell said the program was a pointer to the synergies growers could expect from the CBH-Grain Pool merger proposal.
"The Grain Pool's marketing and customer focus has been instrumental in the aeration proposals," he said.
"This type of investment will carry a lot of weight with the international premium buyers of WA grain who go to great lengths to ensure that they are sourcing products that are grown, handled, stored and presented to the highest standards.
"Every time a discerning customer places a multi-million dollar order for WA grain, they want the security of knowing they've bought the complete package, with appropriate systems and quality controls all the way along the grain supply line, from farm paddock to end user."
That was what increased value for growers, he said.