OVER the course of the 2021/22 harvest, Western Australian farmers delivered enough grain to CBH Group sites to fill Optus Stadium 17 times over.
The co-operative officially called the end of harvest last Thursday after receiving a record breaking 21.3 million tonnes.
That number surpasses the previous record in 2016/17 of 16.65mt and is 50 per cent more than the five-year average of 14.2mt.
Of the 130 sites that received grain, 40 set new highs for tonnes delivered in one day and 54 exceeded their previous record for total tonnes delivered to the site in one harvest.
CBH acting chief operations officer Mick Daw said the harvest had exceeded all expectations.
"Most growers experienced yields well above average for all crop types and the rate at which it was harvested and delivered is unprecedented," Mr Daw said.
"Early in the growing season, we could see that harvest was going to be a big one and as each month passed, the estimates that were being generated were truly staggering.
"Preparing our supply chain and network to safely receive and store this crop was our key focus throughout 2021."
That preparation saw CBH open 130 sites over harvest, including the two new sites of Meenaar and North Kojonup.
It also added a record 2.4mt of emergency storage across 33 of those sites.
At the peak of harvest, a new record was set with CBH receiving almost 585,000t in one day.
Altogether, there were 11 days where more than 500,000t were delivered on each day, a feat the co-operative had achieved only five days in its 88-year history.
"We had a lot of challenging decisions we had to make," Mr Daw said.
"We tried to accommodate the value of tonnes coming in from growers and the biggest problem we faced was that some areas did come under pressure in terms of storage.
"To try and make sure we operated a vital service was a key challenge and while the team did a great job, there were times we were chasing our tail given the estimates we had and the volumes we received we were out of whack at the beginning."
Initially CBH had planned for a 20mt estimate earlier in the year, however weather issues throughout the year caused that to drop down to 19mt.
For the whole industry, estimates chopped and changed throughout the year as experts attempted to match the yield potential that existed based on hectares planted with the potential detrimental effects of frost, waterlogging and a lack of spring rain in some areas.
SLR Agriculture agronomist Michael Lamond, who writes the Grain Industry Association of Western Australia's (GIWA) monthly crop report, said based on the area planted and the condition of the crop, they were always looking at about 23mt Statewide.
However he said they chose to remain optimistically cautious, especially around September and October, as the season could have done anything and there was always a chance it would take a turn.
"We had virtually no rain in the north during August and September, plus a lot of waterlogged ground in the south was only re-sown in August," Mr Lamond said.
"If we had a normal spring with no rain and some hot days, it could have easily wiped out 5mt, but I think in the worst case scenario we were always looking at least 20mt.
"However, in the end we had a very mild finish and that really helped the crops to fill their yield potential."
While GIWA is set to release its final crop report for the 2021/22 harvest tomorrow, Mr Lamond believes that WA will make it past 24mt overall.
"Even though CBH has shut the gate, there is still a lot of grain out there that's stored onfarm, plus some is delivered to Bunge," he said.
"We normally estimate for at least 2.5mt on top of what CBH gets, so we should reach 24mt pretty easily."
While harvest may be over, there's no such thing as a break in farming.
Those with livestock programs have turned their attention to sheep and cattle, while some farmers that have received summer rain are getting ready to start their spraying operations.
For CBH, the next challenge is moving the significant amount of grain received through the network and shipping it to their global customers, with the co-operative expecting the grain rail and road network to be at peak capacity through the whole year.
Mr Daw said they had a lot of work in front of them and were focused on trying to manage that through the supply chain.
"There's plenty of demand in the market and we're starting to see some good tonnes being delivered to port and that's what we'll continue to focus on," he said.
"We've been clear with the market in terms of the capacity we've offered and we've been careful to make sure that what we're only offering we can deliver on.
"Notwithstanding, we understand there is demand for more and that's why we're working with our contractors, suppliers and customers to make sure that if we do add further capacity, we can deliver on that."
With that in mind, CBH is looking at all options to get tonnes if not to port, then closer to it, so it can shorten the task and get grain into ships.
The co-operative has also already turned its attention to the 2022/23 harvest and is acutely aware that increasing shipping capacity will be critical to manage the carryover of grain.
"We're forecasting and modelling where we expect the carryover to be at the end of the year based on our shipping capacity and an above-average crop," Mr Daw said.
"We're looking into how we need to manage that ahead of the next harvest and there are a few levers we can pull in order to help there.
"That includes lessening the carryover by moving more tonnes to help free up storage, plus we're also thinking about if we'll need to build extra emergency storage."
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