Grain Producers Australia southern director and Victorian grain producer, Andrew Weidemann, has highlighted serious concerns about record high input costs exacerbating the economic pain of a ‘green drought’ caused by extreme rain and flooding.
During a recent interview on The Weekly Times’ Australian Ag Podcast, Mr Weidemann spoke about the heightened risks of this year’s crop, and economic devastation suffered by many farmers and rural communities.
He said grain producers are also facing unprecedented logistical challenges with many local roads ‘destroyed’ by the rainfall, in addition to actually getting headers to work in paddocks, to harvest grain to start with.
“This year obviously is the most expensive crop that we’ve ever put in the ground – and for those who’ve had their (winter crop) wiped out, it’s had a huge economic impact on their business – there’s no question of that,” he said.
“In fact, in a lot of cases years like this we call them ‘green droughts’ where they’re actually harder to get over than a normal drought, where you don’t spend as much on the input costs.
“This year with input costs like they are, it’s having a big impact. Those areas which can’t put in that second crop, and really do rely on that (winter crop), that’s going to be a major catastrophe.
“For us down here (in Victoria) of course it’s a different situation. We only get one grab at it and we’ve already seen bean crops wiped out, pretty much from here to the South Australian border with chocolate spot.
“We’ve seen lentil crops, from here to Mildura, wiped out. In some areas I’ve seen up to 80-90 per cent of some paddocks in the Mallee completely wiped out with rainfall and with grey mould which is a fungal disease that attacks lentil crops. The crops basically suffocate from so much moisture and lack of getting dryness down into the canopy.
“People have been trying to make hay in amongst all of this, clearly not a great idea this year. A lot of people have tried to make silage as well, but you can’t even do that. You can’t even get machinery on the ground to cut it.
“Nobody is immune to this weather pattern that we’re seeing at the moment which is unprecedented in some respects, for some people.”
Mr Weidemann said transporting grain from paddocks is also a serious issue for many farmers this year, with many local roads ‘destroyed’ by the rainfall.
“It’s going to put pressure on the supply chain, purely for execution risks – getting grain from out of the paddock, then onto the road, into storage and then getting it onto a ship,” he said.
“We’ve got more logistics issues than we’ve ever faced as well as obviously getting headers to work in the paddocks, on top of all of that.
“And then a lot of labour is new to farming as well this year – people have been sourcing labour from all parts of the globe essentially.
“We’ve got a multicultural group working here. We’ve got a guy from France and one from Germany on the farm and they’ve never seen anything like this.
“We’re training them to be able to manage equipment, large equipment, and not get bogged, and how to avoid the potential risks of damaging the equipment as well.”
Mr Weidemann said compared to a drought, extreme flooding and wet weather events meant farmers were more exposed to direct financial losses, having spent their money on inputs during the year.
“In a drought situation you don’t spend the money, so you don’t have that higher level of risk – but when you get these kind of rain events, floods certainly do take it away,” he said.
“And this is the most expensive crop that we’ve ever grown, with the input costs that we’ve all put out there.
“With bean crops we’ve probably spent the best part of $300 to $400 per hectare on chemicals just to try to control disease…and they’re all gone.
“Those people up north could have spent in excess of $500 to $600 per hectare on their crops, by the time you put urea and all of the chemical costs into it. They’re significant hits there’s no question about that. And you’re also talking about a region that’s suffered three years of long drought, had one good season, and now they’re going through what we’re calling a ‘green drought’…particularly for a lot of farmers in that central, northern NSW, southern Queensland area.”