The main grain handling facility for the Cootamundra district, at Cunningar, near Harden, has been a scene of intense activity in recent weeks, rising to a crescendo this week.
Every day, hundreds of grain trucks have been bringing in the biggest wheat and canola harvests anyone can remember in recent years.
The Cootamundra district's canola yield of 17,000 tonnes was thought to be an outstandingly good harvest in 2016, but there are unconfirmed reports that this year's crop overall has already yielded 27,000 tonnes, with another 1,000 tonnes yet to come in.
Graincorp's site manager at Cunningar, Jaime Zell, said 50,000 tonnes of canola had already been taken in at that facility, with more still coming in through the gates.
The eventual figure will be well in excess of the original expectation that the facility would receive around 45,000 tonnes this year.
"Wheat is coming in very quickly, too," Mr Zell said.
"During the last bumper harvest in 2016 we were getting up to 10,000 tonnes of wheat a day.
"However, we're now receiving up to 13,000 tonnes a day.
"In fact, in 36 hours this week, we received nearly 40,000 tonnes alone."
Area Manager Tim McColl says the recently upgraded rail-loading facilities at Cunningar have improved turnaround times and efficiency for growers:
"While the Cunningar site is filling quickly, the new rail-loading system enables us to load a train in under four hours and still receive grain at the same time," Mr McColl said.
"It can also hold up to 40 wagons; previously, it could not even hold half of that.
"Plus, with a 24-hour turnaround from Cunningar to Port Kembla, our site capability has increased to ensure we're transporting grain as efficiently as possible."
Overall in NSW Graincorp's facilities have taken in nearly 4 million tonnes.
The Cunningar site has taken over 100,000 tonnes, while the Cunningar area, which comprises Cootamundra, Coraw, Greenethorpe, Cunningar, Maimuru, Noonbinna and Nyrang Creek, has taken more than 338,000 tonnes
GrainCorp's regional operations manager for southern New South Wales, Warwick Smith, said it had opened 47 sites in southern NSW this harvest, with 800 casual employees at those sites.
While Ariah Park was reopened for harvest this year, two other sites which GrainCorp also mothballed in 2017, Matong and Boorowa, have not reopened.
"As the harvest kicked off, we realised that the season was even better than what we thought it was going to be and realised there might be some capacity issues in certain areas," Mr Smith said.
Mr Smith says GrainCorp anticipates its national receivals will hit 12 million tonnes this week, providing weather permits and harvesting continues.
Almost 8 million tonnes of that national tally has been delivered in NSW.
"New South Wales has been really strong this year with yields anywhere from 20 to 30 per cent higher than what growers had first expected," Mr Smith said.
With harvest still powering along in southern NSW, and areas including Harden, Young and Grenfell still with a lot of grain to be stripped, Mr Smith anticipated harvest would continue through to mid-January.
The focus is now moving to finding a home for the huge haul, with GrainCorp exporting its first shipment of wheat from this harvest to the Middle East last weekend.
"The export program is in full swing, fingers crossed we can move as much as possible out the door and make room for another good season next year," Mr Smith said.
Local agronomist Mark Golder, of Nutrien Ag, reflected that the consistent excellent rainfall and bumper harvests have come at a good time, helping to counteract what could have been a disastrous year with Covid-19.
"If the season hadn't been the way it was out west and north of Cootamundra there would probably have been a lot more people struggling with mental health issues," Mr Golder said.
The dramatic improvement in rainfall probably helped lighten the isolation for a lot of guys and helped keep their situation a bit more upbeat."
Mr Golder said a lot of growers who had been in the area many years have openly said they haven't seen a season like this before, both with cropping and pastures and all round.
He said livestock had done well, with no need for hand feeding for almost all of the year and for many graziers more feed available than they've been able to use.
"The only challenge for some has been that livestock have been expensive, so it's been harder to buy and grow stock out," he said.
"In other years stock hasn't been so expensive because it's been drier with less feed available elsewhere, but this year it's been a good season everywhere so it's been a sellers market."
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