FACING successive massive harvests, large carryover and the prospect of big tracts of crop ripening at the same time bulk handler GrainCorp remains confident it will be able to handle the east coast crop in a timely manner.
There has been some concern from the farming community, especially in NSW's Central West, that there will be long delays caused by a lack of space in the bulk handling network.
With a forecast wet late spring and early summer there is the fear crop could be downgraded due to weather damage if it cannot be harvested in a timely manner due to a lack of space to store it.
However, GrainCorp general manager of operations Nigel Lotz said he believed the company was up to the challenge.
"It's going to be tough, we're fully aware of it, but we've known the crop has been large for a long time now and have been making provisions to handle extra volumes," Mr Lotz said.
He said GrainCorp had planned an extra million tonnes of storage this season, with big increases at sites such as Coonamble and Gilgandra in NSW and Murchison East and Nhill in Victoria.
Coonamble, with 750,000 tonnes of storage, is now the largest storage site on the east coast.
Mr Lotz said GrainCorp's ports had been busy over the past 12 months exporting as much grain as possible, freeing up space in the network.
"It's been a huge task but it has been helped by our investments in supply chain, in particular rail, which has allowed us to get grain to port more efficiently, especially in the Port Kembla zone," he said.
However, Central West NSW farmer Wayne Dunford, who has farms near Parkes and further to the north-west near Brewarrina, said the farming community was concerned the bulk handling system would be swamped.
"We're hearing some excellent reports of big crops coming in as harvest winds up, which is fantastic, but it puts pressure on the sites," Mr Dunford said.
"With the volume of grain coming in from the north and west along with the carryover it would be no real surprise if Parkes is full before farmers to the east of the town get going," he said.
"We know it is not necessarily easy but now that Bogan Gate is being run by Manildra and is going to be wheat only we're going to see farmers to the west of Condobolin taking canola 170km into Parkes as their nearest delivery point, it is a big catchment area."
Also of concern is the added strain the potential bulk handling issues will have on on-farm storage, with farmers already faced with having to store most pulses on farm because of a lack of buying activity due to world shipping issues.
Mr Lotz said there was no sugar-coating there would be times storage got tight but said along with the additional storage GrainCorp was also outloading 300,000 tonnes of grain from its network a week.
"We're doing absolutely all we can to keep up," he said.
He said GrainCorp was happy with its current set-up where it uses its flagship primary sites, major sites and flex sites, which are only used in large production years such as this one.
"In the Australian climate it can be difficult to get that mix right, given you're going to have really big years and some years where you will receive very little grain, you can't just spend a fortune to have sites sitting empty, so we need to get that balancing act right."
"All the investment in extra storage has been made to get the best bang for buck and has been done in close consultation with engineers on things like drainage and camber to ensure we get the most out of our sites and that there are no losses."
Mr Lotz said the other big challenge this season would be ensuring portable grain handling equipment was used to best effect.
"With a lot of grain coming off at once we will have to be on the ball to ensure the equipment is where it is of most use."
"We get data on receivals every day and we'll concentrate on any feedback we have to make sure we keep things moving."
So far GrainCorp has received 1.5 million tonnes of grain, with over a million tonnes in Queensland and just under 500,000t in NSW.
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