FARMER lobby groups are warning that while this year's winter crop figures make good reading at a glance, with the national crop set to be close to the largest ever, on the ground the situation is not as rosy.
While there have been big profits among grain agribusinesses, with GrainCorp and CBH among those doing well, and a national crop set to exceed 60 million tonnes once again, farmers, hit with high input costs and a plummeting market for their product, have said all is not as rosy as headlines suggest.
Grain Producers Australia chairman Barry Large said the big crop production and farmgate crop value numbers masked the impact of severe flooding, crop disease and a delayed and disrupted harvest.
Across the flood-hit east coast farmers are being confronted with a grab bag of results at the sample stand, with loads from within the same paddock testing differently due to the way the crop handled the wet conditions and disease burden.
The downgrading will see millions of dollars of value left behind and with interest rates soaring many are reporting they will be watching crop input costs closely next year.
Mr Large said meaningful investment in the grain transport network would be a tangible way the government could help grain growers, while also delivering outcomes for the entire rural and regional community.
"On the ground growers are facing some serious challenges harvesting and delivering the most expensive crops we've ever planted due to record high input costs," Mr Large said.
Along with the stress of harvesting often tangled and lodged crops, stretching harvest out to close to double the normal period in many cases Mr Large said getting grain into the local silo was more difficult than ever.
"We're seeing unprecedented road damage and pothole proliferations from the flooding, further impacting existing supply chain problems," he said.
"This is also having serious impacts on community safety and adding to the production risks many individual growers already face, in different regions."
"That's why GPA has called for urgent action and funding to improve safety and enhance the efficiency of grain deliveries from farms to grain delivery sites."
"Having a fit-for-purpose supply chain will help increase resilience in the cropping sector and by extension the broader rural community."
His calls were backed up by NSW Farmers president Xavier Martin who said NSW grain growers were currently punch-drunk after one of the toughest years on record, with a congested and dysfunctional supply chain the latest in a series of woes going back to heavy rain that meant issues as far back as planting in the autumn.
Mr Martin said there were many NSW farmers that have had crops wiped out by flooding but he added even the comparatively lucky ones with grain to sell are currently finding it difficult.
He said there were a range of issues for growers, such as high levels of carry-over, the uncertain grade outcomes and severely discounted prices for off-specification grades and the difficulties with the road network.
"I've had people very emotional on the phone to me - we're talking about losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars just before Christmas," Mr Martin said.
"This winter crop was one of the most expensive they've ever grown, and there have been so many hurdles and challenges this season just to try and get something out of the paddock," he said.
He said NSW Farmers has long called for serious scrutiny of the deregulated and dysfunctional grain trade in Australia, with issues of price transparency, fair value and supply chain access among the top issues of concern.
GPA is also calling for an overall review of the industry, saying there had been no industry-wide formal analysis since the deregulation of the wheat industry.
It has asked for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to conduct an inquiry, but has met fierce opposition from bulk handlers and marketers who say it is not necessary.
Mr Martin backed the GPA calls.
"What's unfair is when marketeering or poor infrastructure tips the balance in favour of big business and multinational middlemen, and that's why we have advocated for things like the Port of Newcastle container terminal, and an ACCC market inquiry of the grain trade."