By HARRY CLARKE
A COOLER end to a season that was blessed with up to double average rainfall is making for a tremendous winter harvest across Southern Queensland, but strong yields are being met with ballooning input costs and transport challenges.
Wet weather has also meant windows to harvest have been scarce in parts. Western Downs growers worked quickly to get crops off before storms forecast for this week began bearing down.
Further south at Kindon Station, near Goondiwindi, the Cook family had seven headers running in a single paddock at the height of the harvest.
Ross Skerman, whose family runs several blocks around Kupunn outside Dalby, just finished the last of his 500-hectare winter crop but said there were now difficulties in getting the produce to market.
“We’re sitting here with a good crop, storing it all, and getting all of that to Brisbane is the next thing,” Skerman said.
“It’s about supply. All the trucks are busy. They’re just all tied up and you talk to truckies and they can’t get drivers. It’s about supply of labour – everywhere you go there’s a labour shortage and that puts everyone under pressure.”
Yields have been averaging about six tonnes to the hectare for the Skermans but good sections of paddock have produced “exceptional” eights and nines. Generally the quality has been “Hard 2”, comfortably fetching above $400 per tonne.
Strong yields are being put down the fact that the district this year experienced fewer of the notorious dry south westerly winds which usually come through late August and September.
Wheat crops have matured better in the cooler weather but profit margins will be impacted by soaring input costs.
“The season’s been full of challenges and hard to manage,” Skerman said.
“Because of the rain we just haven’t been able to get access into the paddock, so weed control and getting fertiliser has been a bit difficult.
“The only way to get fertiliser on has been by aeroplane – we haven’t been able to get access to this last paddock since we planted in June.
“Although it’s a fantastic yield the costs of growing this crop have just blown way out – the supply of urea and the cost of it all.
“The prices are good but our input costs have more than doubled in one season, just for this one crop. Everywhere we turn the cost of urea, the cost of chemicals, the cost of machinery parts and the availability of supply are up exponentially.”
Macalister crop farmer Stuart Schostakowski said costs of fuel, fertiliser and fungicide had virtually doubled since before the pandemic, adding: “you’ve pretty much got to grow an above average crop to break even, even with these good prices”.
In a strong season overall for Queensland, GrainCorp said it had taken more than 1.3 million tonnes of harvest deliveries across the state by November 21.