Victoria O’Sullivan

Solid yields for the 2020 harvest have many farmers smiling across the country, with some growers achieving their best-ever production levels.

Carrfields Grain and Seed New Zealand sales manager Lyndon Anderson says it has been an extremely positive harvest.

“The harvest has been amazing, to be quite frank,” he says. “Last year was pretty tough with cool, wet conditions, whereas this year, particularly in mid Canterbury, it’s been fantastic.

“That’s across the board too — and while that sounds really broad, there hasn’t been a dud performer.”

While it’s still early days for farmers in the North Island, indications were for a good harvest too.

Many autumn cereals in the Canterbury region have easily reached yields of 12-13 tonnes and above, surpassing typical yields of 10-11t.

“There’s plenty of good grain around and it’s good quality,” he says. “The protein is probably down a bit as a result of the dilution effect, as most nitrogen programmes are probably only equipped to feed 10-11t/ha.”

Grasses, peas and clover have also outperformed, while some early hail-damaged crops in Canterbury recovered.

“Peas were probably the most affected by hail, but probably what saved them was how late and slow the spring was — they weren’t that advanced, so a lot did come back and still yielded okay. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely some horror stories with write-offs, but it was still minimal compared to what it could have been.”

Anderson says a lot of hard work will be going in to market the grain out the other side, particularly as tightening finance conditions means some dairy farmers remain nervous about committing to anything other than hand-to-mouth purchases.

“The end users will still be there, like Five Star [feedlot] and the feed mills, but we still rely on that dairy market to take good amounts of feed grain. The price of palm kernel has come up quite a bit, so that continues to help demand.

“Australia is still hurting a bit, which should help as far as imported product coming in, but that probably affects the North Island market more, they may end up having to access more New Zealand grain,” he says. “There is a real push to make New Zealand self-sufficient for grain.”

Australian grain imports compete with Canterbury grain into North Island mills as road and rail freight rates from the South Island have remained high post-Kaikoura earthquake. Seed and dressing stores are working overtime and bursting at the seams with around 20% more product to deal with.

“It’s definitely going to put some pressure on and there’ll be challenges out the other end, but you’ve got to take the good with the bad and we’d rather have that than farmers sitting there looking at yields of 6t/ha.”