Positive outlook for northern harvest

27 Oct, 1999 09:59 AM
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IF you're looking for farmers with a spring in their step, head to the northern Wheatbelt. You'll find a very positive picture, with combine harvesters roaring into action on the back of a sustained period of warm to hot conditions. First priority is picking up canola swaths. And while it's early days < only 40,000 tonnes of canola is expected to be delivered into the Geraldton zone this week < the prognosis for the northern harvest remains very positive. Grain Pool of WA grower services officer Hugh Morrison said hopes were high for a good quality harvest. "We've got early canola receivals hitting 42 per cent oil content or better and barley receivals are characterised by low screenings," he said. "There is some staining, but that's from early-sown crops and we would expect the later-sown crops won't have that problem. "Hopefully we'll get good colour with plump grain." Mr Morrison said lupins would be ready to harvest soon and yields looked good. Continued fine weather should lead to activity in the Esperance zone this week, along with receivals into the Metro Grain Centre. On the wheat side, AWB Ltd spokesman Peter Hobbs said early harvest results had produced a "mixed bag". The first trickle of wheat poured into the Yuna CBH bin last week and was assessed between ASW and APW, with high hectolitre weight. "Expectations are that grain will generally be very plump, though protein is expected to take a dive because of the rain earlier this month," Mr Hobbs said. The downside is protein, which overall is not expected to reach great heights. That's mainly due to this month's rain which, ironically, set up the bulk of crops throughout the Wheatbelt for a good finish. "But the flip side to low protein in the wetter areas is that hectolitre weight is likely to be higher," Mr Hobbs said. "We've still got wheat crops up here that are hanging on because there's plenty of moisture and, while some crops are starting to turn, it will be another week before they are ready to be harvested." He expected higher protein wheat deliveries to come mainly from the "fringe areas" that received little of the October rains. "It's a bit hard to get a grasp on the overall picture up here at the moment but with this fine weather there will be a marked pick up in deliveries from now on," Mr Hobbs said. It also is a mixed picture in other parts of the Wheatbelt, with canola swathing now well under way and some early-sown wheat and barley crops starting to turn. Weather will be the determinant on when crops will be ready for harvesting but most farmers are resigned to the fact that it will be a later harvest, hopefully not as bad as last year's stop-start scenario in which some farmers finishing off harvesting programs in February. Agriculture WA officers this week were assessing frost damage, particularly in the Lakes District, to quantify grain losses. No official figures were available as Farm Weekly went to press. Farmers with frosted wheat hay may have an avenue to sell off farm, with hay exporter Peter Mackie announcing he has a market for the product. Mr Mackie believes he can sell 10,000t of frosted wheat hay into Japan for the beef cattle market. He said three customers sold frosted wheat hay last year have specifically requested more this year. "This is in addition to our market for oaten hay, so it is not impacting on that at all," Mr Mackie said. He estimated a gross return of about $95 per tonne, which he estimated would probably return between $20 and $30 to growers. ÿ

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