TRIALS have begun to see if some of the heat-damaged and smoke-tainted grain stored on fire-ravaged farms across the Esperance zone, can be salvaged.
Much of the on-farm stored grain was in plastic silo bags and may not be recoverable and may also not be covered by farmers' crop insurance.
CBH Group representatives began visiting farms north of Cascade and across to Scaddan, Grass Patch and Salmon Gums on Friday, as soon as it was deemed safe to enter the fire zone.
However, the full extent of the impact of the fires on what was shaping as a bumper harvest in the Esperance zone, may not be known for three weeks, a CBH spokesperson said.
"Farmers are the best judge of their crops and it may take that long before they can assess the damage and get back to us," the spokesperson said.
Assessing whether some of the on-farm stored grain could be salvaged would be a farm-by-farm proposition.
So far this season 1,279,950 tonnes has been delivered to CBH sites in the Esperance zone, out of a total of 6,740,570t delivered across all zones.
On the Friday before the fires the Esperance terminal broke a daily receivals record and across the zone CBH took 350,000t over four days before movement bans mid-morning on the Tuesday of the fires brought harvest to a halt.
Chief executive officer Andy Crane said more than 100,000 hectares of cropping land had been burnt and the loss of standing crop and stored grain could run to more than 100,000t.
"It's hard to tell, but the loss will be significant in the zone - particularly as they were looking at some good yields - three tonnes a hectare and even four, five and 6t/ha in some places, so it's a real loss," Dr Crane said.
"A lot of grain stored on farm has been damaged or destroyed and that's an additional impact on our growers, particularly when they've gone to all the effort of harvesting it and they've lost it before it's been delivered to CBH.
"We want to see if we can recover as much of that as possible.
"There's been a lot of silo bags on farms, so we'll have to go and see what has been the impact there.
"We are doing our trials and it may be that a surface of grain is damaged but what's in the middle may be salvageable."
Dr Crane said CBH was looking to introduce new off-grade segregations for damaged grain.
It would help growers with assessing and sale of on-farm stored grain, he said.
He predicted the fires will also have a long-term impact on productivity.
"It's not just the grain and the crop that has been lost, but of course the tragic loss of life, property and machinery that has been lost," Dr Crane said.
Dr Crane said no CBH sites were damaged by the fires.
He confirmed Kym 'Fred' Curnow, the farmer who lost his life while trying to warn others of the fire, was a CBH grower.
"As a grower co-operative that's owned and run by farmers, we are intrinsically connected to the communities in which we operate," Dr Crane said.
Some farmers who have crop fire cover with Elders Insurance may be able to claim for loss of grain stored in silo bags.
Elders Insurance general manager Jon Fox confirmed on Monday that "where a client has insured against fire under an Elders Insurance broadacre insurance policy, there is some limited cover available for harvested grain damaged by fire and stored in silo bags".
"We encourage all Elders Insurance clients to contact their local agent to discuss their insurance covers," Mr Fox said.