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Mid West grain farmers enjoying ‘above average’ harvest, but late start will see them working past Christmas

Michael RobertsMidwest Times
Mullewa farmer Tarleah Thomas.
Camera IconMullewa farmer Tarleah Thomas. Credit: Michael Roberts/Geraldton Guardian/Michael Roberts/Geraldton Guardian

Mid West farmers say they will have to work well past Christmas to deliver this year’s grain crop after a historically late and stop-start beginning to harvest.

While WA farmers as a whole are predicted to smash tonnage records with the 2021 crop, Mid West growers are only expecting an average or above average season locally.

The latest Grain Industry Association of Western Australia crop report estimated the Geraldton port zone would contribute just over 3.15 million tonnes of grain to the State total, behind Esperance (3.38mt), Albany (3.95mt) and Kwinana (8.78 mt).

If those predictions are realised the more than 19.26mt crop will break WA’s last production record of 18.1mt from 2016.

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Mullewa farmer Andrew Thomas said 2021 would be one of their better years, but certainty nothing record breaking.

“It’s a good season, prices are good, yields are good — quality is holding up even though we have had a lot of rain,” he said.

“It’s moving very slowly with the weather we have had but I’m sure that will change and we will get into a good straight run.

“At the rate we are going at the moment we aren’t going to be finished till after Christmas.

“It will take all of December and maybe even into January if we don’t get any more weather delays.”

A header harvests canola on the Thomas’ farm outside Mullewa.
Camera IconA header harvests canola on the Thomas’ farm outside Mullewa. Credit: Michael Roberts/Geraldton Guardian/Michael Roberts/Geraldton Guardian

Mr Thomas’ wife, Tarleah, said it was always a relief to see a healthy crop ready for harvest after a number of recent droughts.

“When it’s a really good season like this you feel good seeing what you’ve grown,” she said.

“But in drought years it’s almost the opposite. You put so much love into your crop and it’s sad to see not much coming up and you’re struggling to pay accounts.”

About 20km down the road at Tenindewa, the Critch family is also busily working to catch up on slow start to harvest.

Jennifer Critch, who runs their farming business alongside husband Tim, said workers on their patch would normally finish up at the start of December, but that was now off the cards.

“Normally we start in early October but this time it was towards the end of the October,” she said.

“One of our headers got stuck at the port and we’ve had two stops because of the rain.”

Ms Critch said they took a gamble by planting on the majority of their land.

“It will be one of our good years,” she said. “There has been some areas with a little bit of frost damage and some areas that didn’t yield as much, but others that did better than we thought.

“The price of canola is great too. Canada has had a bad season and the price of fuel is high and the price of canola seems to go up when fuel prices go up as they use canola for alternative fuel sources.”

Maggie and Jennifer Critch on their Tenindewa farm.
Camera IconMaggie and Jennifer Critch on their Tenindewa farm. Credit: Michael Roberts/Geraldton Guardian/Michael Roberts/Geraldton Guardian

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