Analysis

Logistics to cap grain exports

By Lloyd George, Ag Scientia
April 30 2022 - 1:00am
Logistics pushed to the brink

Grain export capacity is being pushed to the limit as bulk handling and logistics companies work to move Australia's record large grain harvest into overseas markets.

Australia's combined wheat, barley, canola and pulse crop production is forecast to exceed 60 million tonnes, according to ABARES, to exceed last year's bumper harvest of around 58mt. Bumper summer crops have added to already bulging grain storages.

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Grain logistics are being pushed to the brink with the massive grain crop.

Storages quickly filled at harvest, forcing many farmers to travel to find additional capacity to keep headers rolling.

Logistics pushed to the brink

Bulk handling companies reported huge harvest grain deliveries. WA's CBH received more than 21mt of grain deliveries at harvest, comfortably exceeding the previous highs. SA's Viterra and GrainCorp also reported large harvest grain deliveries.

It's been a brisk start to the 2021-22 grain export program with bulk handlers and logistics companies working around to clock. A combined 16.4mt of wheat, barley and canola exported in the four months from October to February. This is 3.4mt, or 26 per cent, above the same time last year.

Grain export elevation is running at capacity and is mostly fully booked through to when new crop becomes available later in the year, although achieving this capacity hasn't been without its difficulties.

Grain exports in containers remains difficult and are operating at well below capacity. Container shortages are expected to persist for some time.

Truck shortages continue to present problems moving the massive crop to market. Driver shortages has compounded efforts to move grain. Many transport companies are reporting they can't attract enough drivers to keep all trucks on the road.

Extreme weather has also added to the difficulties in getting grain to markets. Flooding events in Queensland and NSW have blocked some key roads for weeks as well as forcing some domestic mills to close and undertake repairs.

Impacts of the extreme weather on some rail lines will take even longer to repair. Rail access to Port Kembla is expected to be restricted for months as the ARTC is forced to undertake extensive repairs to make the Moss Vale - Port Kembla line safe after extensive damage following torrential rains in March.

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