Freight Rail

GrainCorp reflects on ‘challenging’ winter harvest

A GrainCorp shed at the Port of Portland. Photo: David Sexton

Weather events during the growing season on Australia’s east coast drove a 54% decrease in GrainCorp’s winter crop volume, the company said this week.

According to GrainCorp’s latest harvest review, the handler received 5.6 million tonnes of grain during the 2017 winter harvest. During the 2016 winter harvest, GrainCorp recorded 12.1 million tonnes received.

“The 2017 winter harvest was challenging across the eastern grain belt,” the company said. “Coming off a near-record previous year, there was hope for another large crop after a good start. However, dry conditions prevailed across most of Queensland and New South Wales during the winter, significantly impacting yield.”

In Queensland, receivals dropped 69% from 1.8 million tonnes to just 557,000 tonnes, as growers battled dry conditions and limited soil moisture, affecting acreage planted and overall yields.

Receivals were down 68% in New South Wales, from 6.6 million tonnes to just 2.1 million tonnes.

“For the first time since at least 2011, New South Wales growers delivered less into the GrainCorp network than their Victorian counterparts,” GrainCorp said.

“This reflects the extremely dry conditions across the western districts … Overall, quality in northern New South Wales was good however volumes were drastically down. Southern New South Wales suffered from a combination of weather events and frost which compounded quality and quantity issues.”

Victorian growers had a relatively strong year, with receivals down just 21% from 3.7 million tonnes to 2.9 million tonnes.

“While harvest was interrupted by weather on a number of occasions, Victoria achieved a recent record, with over 150,000 tonnes being received in a single 24-hour period. In this case, many sites stayed open for 20 hours to enable growers to get grain into the system before a forecast storm.”

GrainCorp operates seven ports along Australia’s east coast, with a mixture of containerised and bulk export services. Domestic demand took priority during the 2017 winter season, however, as local consumers looked to secure supply.

“Domestic grain flows are being drawn north as supplies are under pressure across northern New South Wales and Queensland,” the company said.

“Geelong remains GrainCorp’s busiest port, which reflects the strong production year Victorian growers have enjoyed. Over 600,000 tonnes have been exported this harvest through Geelong as Australian grain remains sought-after in our key export markets.”