Wimmera farmers discuss market options for frosted lentils

 Wimmera chickpea crops were decimated by a late season frost earlier this month.
Wimmera chickpea crops were decimated by a late season frost earlier this month.

WIMMERA grain buyers have urged growers to store their frost-affected lentils on farms while a market is sought for the product.

Agriculture Victoria and the Victorian Farmers Federation hosted a forum for growers and traders on Friday, which discussed the effects of frost in the region.

Wimmera lentil crops were hit with a severe frost earlier this month, with some growers losing entire crops.

Agriculture Victoria south-west grains regional manager Robert O’Shannessy said the event at Kalkee discussed opportunities to assist farmers manage frost-affected crops. 

“We had about 60 people there – half were people in the industry and the other half were farmers,” he said.

“We had a good roll out with representatives from all the major banks and the Rural Financial Counselling Service.”

Mr O’Shannessy said at least five major agribusiness financial institutions representatives were on hand to talk with farmers, as well as Tracey Hatherell from the National Centre for Farmer Health. 

He said the aim of the forum was to give growers a chance to discuss the situation with the main traders.

He said the traders on the forum’s panel were from Viterra, Wimmera Grain Company, JK Milling, Alliance Grain Trade and Wimpak.

Agriculture Victoria’s pulse research scientist Jason Brand was also on the panel.

“It was a chance for growers to get an outlook on what markets are available,” Mr O’Shannessy said.

“The traders at the meeting were fairly positive.

“At the moment there is no market available for frosted lentils, but they urged growers to store grain on-farm, while they work towards procuring a market.

“They were confident that this would happen in the near future.”

Mr O’Shannessy said frost damage in the region ranged from 10 per cent to 100 per cent of crops.

“Because of the lateness of the frost and the maturity of the crops, especially lentils, the impacted grain is the same size as the good grain,” he said.

“This creates issues because it is difficult to grade it out.

“There are machines that can do it but they are slow, and given the level of damage in the Wimmera, it could be a long process.”

Mr O’Shannessy said it was important to have this meeting as quickly as possible.

“We were getting a lot of information from growers about the level of damage throughout the region and we wanted to facilitate the conversation between growers and traders as quickly as possible so people could come up with a strategy,” he said.

“The day was designed to help farmers make the best decisions going forward.”

At the forum, Agriculture Victoria’s seasonal risk agronomist Dale Grey discussed why the late frosts happened. 

Horsham-based rural financial counsellor Patrick White provided information on the services offered to farmers, free of charge, by the Rural Financial Counselling Service. 

Viterra Dooen site manager Andrew Brown displayed pulse samples with various degrees of frost damage and discussed lentil storage with growers. 

Todd Krahe from Export Trading Group in Horsham discussed the international market. 

Mr O’Shannessy said Victorian Farmers Federation president and Murra Warra farmer David Jochinke also attended the event.