Low protein levels create harvest headache

28 Oct, 2011 02:00 AM
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LOW cereal protein levels in the Geraldton port zone are threatening to add to CBH's logistical woes this harvest.

Earlier this year CBH announced a full roll-out of its Quality Optimisation (QO) system for the 2011/12 season in a bid to put money in the grower's pocket, give farmers full control of the grain supply chain system and reward growers who produced top quality grain.

But now it seems QO might come back to bite CBH as northern Wheatbelt farmers hold off selling their downgraded hard varieties with the intention of "virtually blending" them to a higher protein level at the end of the season.

With the distinct possibility of unsold grain being tied up in the CBH system, growers are concerned about what effect late QO may have on shipping allocations in the Geraldton zone, and questioning whether or not already allocated boats will in fact be filled during harvest.

CBH grain quality manager Mat Regan said all CBH could do was rely on data collected last year during QO trials in the Geraldton and Esperance port zones.

He said the data didn't show any distinct changes to nomination patterns, but admitted that problems this harvest were a possibility.

"We don't expect there to be any major problems with shipping," Mr Regan said.

"A grower's average quality is a grower's average quality and QO can't change that."

But he didn't rule out the possibility of shipping issues caused by protein problems in the Geraldton zone.

"At the end of the day CBH can't tell growers when to nominate their grain," Mr Regan said.

"Last year CBH tracked the outcomes because we were equally as concerned as growers and marketers about the possibility of shipping issues.

"I believe the nomination pattern is purely about cash flow to growers."

But a number of growers throughout the Geraldton zone have told Farm Weekly that they plan to use canola contracts as an answer to their cash flow worries while holding on to downgraded wheat varieties until later in the season.

Mr Regan argued the use of canola for cash flow may have always been on the cards, with or without the introduction of QO, but there was little doubting growers planned to see what QO could do for them regardless of the possible logistical implications.

"The thing about QO or LoadNet Optimiser is it can't actually make farmers' grain quality better," Mr Regan said.

"It can only help dice it, so to speak. If an individual grower has a mix of high, mid and low protein grain then there might be some advantages to optimising at the end of the season.

"But I wouldn't recommend holding out until the end of the season to anyone."

Shifting global grain prices would also be a major consideration for farmers when optimising their loads.

"If growers wait to optimise and prices are still falling then any optimisation benefits might be cancelled out by the price drops," Mr Regan said.

"QO is very valuable but it's one tool in a very big tool box.

"It's also a harvest-based product so there's a cut off date and it's not an open-ended ticket."

But growers like the Ralph family at Ajana are considering the potential benefits from optimisation later in the season.

John, Graeme and Malcolm Ralph are focused on getting grain into the bin.

While there is plenty of time to mull over grain prices in the header, they agreed that after harvest is a better time to assess the market before selling the tonnes from their 3000-hectare cropping program.

They said hard wheat was their preferred variety, and with big yields and low protein CBH's QO system fits perfectly with their selling strategies.

"There's just not enough time when you're harvesting to fully analyse the market," Graeme said.

"We prefer to just put the grain in the bin and then optimise after harvest and see what selling options we've got.

"We haven't locked away any grain at the moment.

"While yields will compensate for lower protein we're hopeful as we get into hotter days that we can deliver higher protein loads to help us bring up some loads into APW or even H2."

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READER COMMENTS

John
28/10/2011 7:40:12 PM, on Farm Weekly

So now Mr "IT background" Regan is saying QO isn't the "be-all" that his mob was promising ???? CBH seem to continue to waste growers money -seen by increasing charges to cover the waste....

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