HARVEST production is expected to be down across the Wimmera and Southern Mallee due to dry conditions and frost outbreaks.
Victorian Farmers Federation president, David Jochinke, of Murra Warra, said the season was going to be “overall poor” in the Wimmera.
“Everyone is looking ahead to the new year because this year has been tough. There was a lot of potential at the start, then having a dry, cold winter followed by the frosts at the back-end has knocked most farming enterprises around,” he said.
Mr Jochinke said he was planning to start his harvest by the end of this week.
“We’ve got one or two good barley crops, but even the best of our crops this year would be the worst crops in a good year. They’re not really that good, but we’re getting excited because at least they’re half decent,” he said.
“For the best of our cereals, we might get 1.5 tonnes per hectare. In a good year we’d be getting around six tonnes – so that’s a huge difference.”
He said the prices would definitely help farmers this year.
“But we’re not really sure what quality we’re going to get. So hopefully the quality allows us to get some of the better prices, but overall we won’t get the same amount that we would normally. There are going to be a lot of people who will struggle to cover their costs,” he said.
“Anyone with sheep seem to be in a better position and that may help to pay some of the bills. If we didn’t have the pipeline available to us, I think even running sheep would be difficult.”
Mr Jochinke said frost had impacted a lot of his crops.
“We have cereals and pulses that have been damaged. We know roughly where the areas are but we don’t know exactly how much the yield or quality has been downgraded until we get the machines in the paddock,” he said.
“What we have isn’t great, but there would be a lot more people worse off to what we are.”
VFF Wimmera branch president Daniel Keam, of Wallup, said his harvest was just around the corner.
“We’ve desiccated lentils so we’ll probably start our harvest next week. Harvest is going to be an unknown quantity this year. We let the canola run and some of it wasn’t good enough to cut for hay,” he said.
“I had a little bit of hope that we might get some more rain, but the canola has come out not as bad as the other crops. There isn’t as much frost prominent in the canola as the other crops.”
Mr Keam said frost had been an ongoing issue for the last few months.
“September really hurt us. Only to have three millimetres of rain and many frosts in a row, that really hurt us. It’s not until the crops actually come out that you can see the true extent of how much the frost has affected us,” he said.
Birchip Cropping Group chief executive Chris Sounness said harvest had just started north of Birchip.
“From what I’ve been told, it’s meeting the low expectations that we already had. It will be a fairly disappointing year for a lot of people. Basically people are looking forward to getting harvest over and done with, and looking ahead to 2019 with the hopes of some autumn rains,” he said.
Spoke to a couple of mates on the other side of the country yesterday, one was looking out for me with our poor season and the other has has a tough few months. Thanks boys it made my day and hopefully helped yours, cheers 👍. #lookoutforyourmates#areyouboggedmate— Ryan Milgate (@ryan_milgate) November 6, 2018
“The Wimmera and Southern Mallee is not looking good, but there have definitely been worse years. This will be a bad year, but not an absolute disaster. Most farmers will have some sort of production – whether that’s hay or grains.”
Mr Sounness said frost conditions had been patchy throughout the region.
“It’s not a significant frost from what we’ve seen but there will always be a presence in these paddocks and what has been affected will be – or had been cut – for hay,” he said.
Rabobank released its Winter Crop Production Outlook recently, predicting forecasts for a national harvest of just 29.3 million tonnes. This would be down 23 per cent on last year.
The projected yield would be the country’s fourth lowest in the past 20 seasons.