Perseverance and innovative nature of the nation's croppers should be recognised

Grain rebound highlights sector's resilience

Opinion
The efficiencies of Australian grain growers show viable businesses can be operated successfully in semi-arid climates.

The efficiencies of Australian grain growers show viable businesses can be operated successfully in semi-arid climates.

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Grain growers in Australia celebrated for high production in challenging environments.

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AUSTRALIAN croppers are all too familiar with the vagaries of the climate of our arid nation.

Just a year ago, there was national commentary questioning the viability of farm businesses in the country's low rainfall zone cropping regions.

However, 2020 - so miserable for so many others - is a reminder of how quickly the worm can turn for a grain farmer.

For farmers in New South Wales, it was that 'magic' year - where things fall into place. The break was early enough, the winter was mild and, crucially, there were good spring rains and no frost or excessive heat.

When the stars align we quickly see just how productive our grainbelt can be.

The recovery in NSW is nothing short of astounding, from wheat production of just 2.1 million tonnes to estimates in excess of 13.5 million tonnes for this year.

Just as Australia's ephemeral desert river systems can blossom into thriving eco-systems in the blink of an eye following rain, the 2020 season reminds us how quickly our cropping country can bounce back.

A case in point is the north west of NSW, widely regarded as Australia's largest 'surge' wheat production region, where tonnages can range from virtually nothing - as per the past two years - to the millions of tonnes that will be ripped off this year.

Amid the buzz and activity that go with a bumper harvest, we hope the farmers and workers of NSW allow themselves the odd rare moment of quiet reflection to consciously enjoy the fruits of their labour after two years where even the most optimistic personality would have to question the viability of farming in the area.

These type of moments are not going to occur all that often, so - as 80-year-old Donnie Krug, spending this harvest working at GrainCorp's Walgett receival site, said - it would be a shame to miss out.

The sugar hit of six or seven tonnes per hectare crop yields to rural economies is already being felt.

One of the beauties of grain farming is that, in the right circumstances, it can rebuild a farm business quicker than any other enterprise - and, with international prices also at their highest level for several years, it is a potent mix.

While livestock farmers are also rejoicing at the feed up to the top strainer, rebuilding their flocks and herds will be a slower process, taking several years.

But the payments from the wheat and barley currently filling bulk handling sites throughout NSW to the brim are already starting to hit the bank accounts of farmers, providing valuable cash flow.

Fortunes on the other side of the continent, where northern Western Australian croppers are enduring a tough year, are a reminder that seasons such as that being experienced in NSW and Victoria are the exception rather than the rule.

The 80-20 rule - where you generate 80 per cent of your profit in 20 per cent of the seasons - has long been a tenet of the Aussie cropping sector and, with increased climate volatility, that is likely to become even more pronounced in years to come.

It is a cautionary tale that even as the chaser bins groan under the weight of grain, farmers need to already start planning for the next drought.

But, as demonstrated this year - in spite of having to endure failures, the efficiencies of the Australian grain grower mean that viable businesses can be operated in semi-arid climates that would not be touched by farmers in other parts of the globe.

And, as we push close to a record harvest, we hope that Australia as a whole recognises the resilience of our croppers and the valuable opportunities they provide.

The story Perseverance and innovative nature of the nation's croppers should be recognised first appeared on Stock & Land.

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