“There will be anywhere from 2 million to 2.5 million tonnes of grain going over east,” he said.
“We’ve done shipments to the east coast before but nothing close to this. I would imagine this will be a record.”
While some pockets of the Wheatbelt are experiencing similar drought conditions to over east CBH is bracing itself for a bumper crop from the Kwinana zone, which extends from Moora in the north, to Narrogin in the south and Southern Cross to the east.
The group will have added about 900,000 tonnes of permanent grain storage at Wheatbelt sites by the end of the year but because of the bumper Kwinana harvest it has been forced to create more than one million tonnes of emergency storage.
The Kwinana zone had its best receival week for this harvest with almost 1.3 million tonnes coming in, bringing the years total to 3.6 million tonnes. Ten sites broke daily receival records.
Mr Capper said this year was challenging year to work out yields.
“We had quite a dry start and then we had a very wet winter. Then it didn’t rain all of September pretty much and everyone got very depressed and then it rained in October and so our estimate has been a bit of rollercoaster all year,” he said.
“As it turned out most of the areas of the state … are having quite a reasonable year, and yields, particularity in the Kwinana zone so far are better than expected.
“In some areas of the network yields have just well and truly outstripped what we were expecting, we’re responding to that by building additional emergency storage.”
With a record crop for Kwinana expected Mr Capper also predicted a record amount of grain to be moved via rail.
Since taking over rail operations five years ago Mr Capper said CBH had increased the monthly grain movement by rail in the Kwinana zone from 500,000 tonnes to more than 900,000 and he expected them to hit 1 million tonnes this season.
Road and rail in the Kwinana zone remain a big challenge for the group, with narrow gauge tracks limiting the amount of grain that can be moved.
“Our biggest challenge in Kwinana is actually just getting grain here, the road and rail network is nowhere near matched to the capacity of the (Kwinana grain) terminal itself,” Mr Capper said.
“A lot of the narrow gauge in WA is still 16-tonne axle limits and that obviously limits how much grain per wagon and how much you can bring down.”
Mr Capper said they were liaising with state and federal governments to improve rail capacity.
Williams grain farmer Ashley Chadwick said it had been an “OK” year.
Like many farms in the Williams area, Mr Chadwick’s was formerly a sheep farm, but with the changing climate he’s switched to grains.
With grain prices up as a result of the east coast drought, he said his farm could expect a strong year financially, even if it was not the ideal way for the windfall to come about.
Hamish Hastie is a Fairfax Media business reporter writing from the WAtoday offices in Perth. He was raised in Armadale in Perth’s south east and covered the area for four years at the Examiner Newspaper before a stretch writing for the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA’s business magazines.