GRAIN growers face hefty losses on the back of recent flooding at the end of the most expensive growing season on record, with as much as a third of the national crop hit hard by last week's heavy rain.
Buoyed by strong moisture levels and high prices at the start of the season farmers gritted their teeth and spent up on expensive inputs such as herbicides and fertiliser with a view to generating a good return on investment with strong yields at the end of the year.
Now, after spending $500-800 a hectare on cereal production costs and more for broadleaf crops such as canola and pulses some farmers in flood impacted areas are faced with the reality of losing money due to yield and quality losses.
In some areas there are also difficult decisions as to whether to spend further money on crop protection products such as fungicides, especially in pulse crops, knowing that further protection is required for the crop to survive but also that it might be additional money wasted if further rain washes out the crop entirely.
Victorian grain grower and Grain Producers Australia southern director Andrew Weidemann said east coast grain growers were on the proverbial knife's edge, with the forecast for further massive rain events late this week and early next week a particular cause for concern.
He said while there was still likely to be a good volume of grain around based on historical averages, even with the flooding, the high costs meant farmers could ill-afford average or below average yields.
"Many market analysts may still be forecasting a bumper return across the nation, but we also need to remember this year is the most expensive crop we've ever planted, due to record high input costs such as fuel, fertiliser and chemical," Mr Weidemann said.
He said it was too early to fully assess the damage from last week's rain, with losses expected both from heavy rainfall and riverine flooding.
"Many growers are still unable to get out and inspect their paddocks, to assess the impact of the flooding," he said.
However, he said there are disastrous impacts already, with many growers expecting significant loss of crop value and yields.
GrainGrowers chairman Brett Hosking, whose farm at Quambatook is in the Avoca River catchment severely impacted by flooding,
"Presently, we don't know what the damage will be," Mr Hosking said.
"There are a lot of variables at the moment, but there are various factors to consider, not only the crops but potential paddock access and infrastructure damage to things such as roads," he said.
Mr Hosking said the flooding, which has spread from southern Queensland and NSW to become an increasing problem across northern Victoria in recent weeks, was casting a shadow over a massive swathe of the national crop.
"At a rough estimate, Australian growers were looking at potentially a 60 million ton crop this year," he said.
"My estimate is approximately 20 million tons of production are in the cropping areas experiencing current weather events."
Mr Weidemann said his organisation was lobbying for a government response to the disaster.
He urged state and federal governments to continue working together with industry, to help provide immediate and longer-term support with recovery efforts, where needed.
GPA chairman Barry Large said the organisation had been in contact with government officials on the matter.
"We'll be writing to Agriculture and Emergency Management Minister, Murray Watt, and other relevant federal ministers to make sure they are aware of these issues, and the impact this will also have on our communities and on safety," Mr Large said.
Mr Hosking also said government support would be critical, especially in terms of making access to support as simple as possible.
"As communities try to take in the impact of current damage, and are also preparing for further flooding, we urge government at every level to work together and provide fast, clear, coordinated, and responsive support."
"Communities can't be trying to navigate the intricacies of who does what with disaster declarations."