South Australian grain producers are gearing up for one of the biggest harvests on record, with yields so good it is expected to boost the state’s economy by about $3 billion.
Mallala wheat farmer John Lush said by the end of January he would have harvested enough wheat to make 20 million loaves of bread — the most he has harvested in his 49 years on the property. “If we could order it, this is what we’d order: yields were way above average, rainfall was above average, didn’t have any hot weather when we didn’t need it so most farmers are happy, which is very unusual,” he said. “Lentil crops have been almost double their average yield; wheat crops are 50 per cent up above normal averages so we’re looking at some really outstanding yields.
“The cash-flow that this will create for South Australia will be enormous.”
It is a remarkable transformation for the region which just 12 months ago was ravaged by the Pinery bushfire which destroyed both crops and ground cover and removed valuable top soil. Wheat and lentil farmer Richard Konzag said many producers in his community were back on track. “This good season’s going to do a lot of good for the community here particularly after what we experienced 12 months ago with the Pinery fire,” he said.
“It’s tremendous not only for people’s bank accounts but also for their mental wellbeing too. The only downside, Mr Konzag said, was the low grain prices. “Pricing has been in a big decline since last year when we saw prices of $1,400 to $1,500-a-tonne, I think prices on Friday were around $650,” he said. “So the prices of lentils has come back a long way.”
Wheat prices are also at a 10-year low but with such a bumper crop, farmers said they were not worried. The region’s producers are only about 20 per cent into this season’s harvest due to a long, wet winter, putting them a month behind schedule.
But already, over-stretched infrastructure is struggling to keep up with demand.