The record big crop dries up by a half

18 Jun, 2008 10:28 AM

HOPES of a record 16 million tonne crop this season could be halved as many farmers contemplate lingering dry conditions and soaring input prices.

The Agriculture Department estimates WA will deliver 10mt-12mt of grain for this harvest while CBH fears the figure could be less unless some reasonable rainfall is received.

The department says despite WA growers putting in more crops this year to capitalise on high grain prices, a dry May meant it was unlikely this year's crop would beat the record of 14.5mt set in 2004.

CBH logistics executive manager Tim Collins said the situation was looking bleaker by the day and initial hopes of a record crop had evaporated.

"The way things were at early seeding it would have been reasonable to plan for a 10mt-15mt crop," Mr Collins said.

"We have definitely dropped that and are working at an 8mt-12mt range."

Mr Collins said there was still some time for reasonable rainfall to provide growers the descent break they deserved and push up the estimate.

"We are hoping it does not go any lower than 8mt," he said.

"It is very disappointing and I think the impression we get is that it is looking similar to last year in some respects."

Mr Collins said the northern agricultural region was dry, but better than last year, while Esperance was reasonable but not as good as last year.

"East of Esperance is looking drier than last year," he said.

Mr Collins said growers in the Geraldton zone were still hopeful as some good rain could still turn the situation around.

"The fact is we still don't see any reasonable rain on the radar."

"We are worried about growers up there if the situation gets bad."

Mr Collins said the western area of the Kwinana Zone was looking "okay", but Merredin was still dry.

"Some growers are very concerned that they have had no descent rainfall," he said.

"Very little rain has reached them."

He said Albany was looking good.

According to the department's first crop estimates for 2008, wheat plantings were expected to be one million hectares more than last year but the crop overall would be down by about 500,00ha on the record 2004 year.

The department said a dry May and escalating input costs, particularly for fertiliser and fuel, had made farmers more cautious about their crop programs.

It said that while most of the extra wheat plantings this year were due to favourable conditions in northern areas other districts had increased wheat plantings by about 10pc.

The eastern Wheatbelt continues to suffer dry early seasonal conditions which would reduce yield predictions and dry seeding has been carried out in the central part of the belt where little or no rain has been received.

Due to the central Wheatbelt and Midlands still needing a good rainfall event, the department says it was too early to assess likely state yields with any confidence.

It said no more than an average season could be predicted because of the mixed start across various parts of the agricultural regions.

The department said rainfall for the northern Wheatbelt had been below average for May with centres such as Mullewa, Morawa, Dalwallinu and Wongan Hills, receiving 4mm-13mm instead of the usual average of 50mm.



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