Big harvest equals longer bin lines

Shannon Beattie
By Shannon Beattie
November 24 2021 - 10:00pm
Cycle times at some CBH receival sites have already started to blow out and those longer wait times are more common in segregations that are under pressure and have limited options, with GM canola and malt barley the hardest hit so far.

BIN closures and longer cycle times at CBH Group receival sites are inevitable this harvest, with the task of handling a crop 20 per cent larger than the previous record proving a challenge for the co-operative.

Cycle times at some sites have already started to blow out and while the average is never as bad as the worst case scenario, trucks have been in the system for up to three hours.



Those longer wait times are more common in segregations that are under pressure and have limited options, with GM canola and malt barley the hardest hit so far.

Cycle times vary by site and commodity, but overall CBH targets an average of 38 minutes.

However at York that average has been up to more than an hour and is often sitting at about 50 minutes, while Esperance is consistently more than an hour.

CBH acting chief operations officer Mick Daw said they were getting a lot more tonnes than initially expected at some sites, which meant more trucks that take longer to get through the system.

"As part of our planning we ask for feedback on hectares planted and we apply a yield factor to that, which for canola is generally around 1.8 tonnes per hectare which is what we used to allocate storage and grid capacity," Mr Daw said.

"However crops have regularly been going 2.5-3t/ha which is amazing, but it means there is an extra 30 to 40 per cent of volume to deal with.

"Yields have been greater than anyone anticipated which does impact the way we set up our segregations and our services."

With the volumes of grain that are expected to come into the system, it is anticipated that cycle times will continue to be a pain point and growers will experience similar problems as harvest progresses.

However the co-operative is doing what it can to ease the pressure and has a plan to move as many drive over grids from northern growing regions to those in the south.

It's a big task to put about five million tonnes of grain over drive over grids, which is not the ideal way to receive grain, but it's what has to happen in order to help manage the load.

"The amount of shipping we have over harvest is also helping us move tonnes out of storage across the network and free up a bit more space, generally we do that on sites that have better grid capacity," Mr Daw said.

"The three regional ports are fed by grower deliveries during harvest which allows us to utilise grain as it comes in and we've had some really good early harvest shipping, having moved a lot of tonnes out already with the average turnaround being within our target of four days."

It's not just canola yields that have been greater than expected, with growers getting into barley and finding not only has it gone above average, but that more of it is making malt specification.

As a result, malt barley segregations have started to fill up more quickly than expected and at some sites, that particular segregation has already been closed.

"We've already had pressure with certain segregations at some sites and the storage that we had committed for those segregations has already filled up, however that is not unusual for harvest as we always fill and close," Mr Daw said.

"For barley we generally work on 50pc going malt and we thought that might even be lower this year as protein was expected to be down, but some varieties are going 70pc malt plus it's yielding 4.5t/ha instead of 3t/ha, so it fills up a lot quicker."

Having filled up already, the barley segregations at Tammin were closed earlier this week and while CBH was unable to provide a comprehensive list of sites across the network that have closed or will close soon, it's safe to say there are more to come.



Tammin grower Scott Uppill said it was frustrating for growers as barley was delivered from a large catchment area to Tammin.

"You cannot just expect growers will be happy to travel to deliver barley at other sites, that will slow up their productivity of harvest and other growers who deliver to receival sites that extra grain is being delivered down through the network," Mr Uppill said.

"Communication from CBH has been very limited, to the point you have to make some noise on social media to get their attention and from a zone management point, communication has been very poor, pathetic and bureaucratic this year and most years to be honest.

"More communication on tonnages at stacks through the sites we deliver to would have been good - logistically we change our harvest programs every day as sites get close to filling, there is rain on the radar etc, but having access to that on LoadNet would be advantageous to everyone."

For growers in the Tammin area, the Cunderdin receival site is the nearest alternative delivery option to access barley segregations

With rail assets fully utilised across the Kwinana zone, CBH is running its fleets to the maximum capacity, prioritising the efficient rail loading sites.



"Due to the size of Tammin rail siding, the longer trains are not able to be loaded at the site as we lose efficiency breaking apart trains and shunting wagons to meet site requirements," a CBH spokesman said.

"On an average year, our Tammin site can receive about 60,000t; on a big year, it can take up to 95,000t, which we are anticipating this harvest."

"We will take advantage of any changes to our rail program and seize opportunities to outload grain out of Tammin if they arise, plus we will continue to keep growers updated and notify them of any changes through the CDF app."

Mr Uppill said without the rail service it put extreme pressure on the network down the line through other receival sites with grain that would normally go to Tammin.

"If CBH had come clean weeks ago that trains would be an issue, it would smooth things out with growers," he said.

"It's been known for a while that there would be an issue with the new rail contractor employing train drivers and I feel the transition of the old contract to new has been badly handled, again poor communication with their own essential contract staff.



"I see the AWW1 (Australian White Wheat) stack in Tammin being full in two weeks and while growers do know that there is limited storage and segregation space, because of train shortages it will put pressure on the network from Tammin to the port."

Looking forward, there are going to be sites that run out of room entirely and need to be closed, meaning growers won't be able to deliver to their site of choice and will have to use alternative options.

CBH has tried to cater for that with extra storage at bigger sites and has scraped together an extra 2mt of storage around the network.

"We're not going to make any secret of it, there are going to be sites that are under extreme pressure and some of the smaller sites, especially those we can't get road and rail out of during harvest, will close and that will upset a few people," Mr Daw said.

"The crop is going to be 20pc bigger than the previous record, so there are always going to be teething issues in bringing in a crop that large."

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