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The first shipment of grain from this year's bumper New South Wales wheat harvest is set to leave the Port of Newcastle today.
The bulk carrier loaded with 35,000 tonnes of wheat is the first major grain export ship to leave Newcastle harbour since 2018 when exports dried up due to the prolonged drought.
The executive director of the Newcastle Agri Terminal which loads grain onto ships at Carrington, Jock Carter, said the size of this year's harvest is beyond anyone's expectations.
"It's just incredible when you think in January the whole of north-western NSW was a giant dust bowl," he said.
"Here we are 11 months later and we've got one of the biggest crops that's ever been grown. It's an amazing transformation."
Jock Carter watches as the first grain shipment from this year's bumper winter wheat harvest is loaded.(ABC Newcastle: Liz Farquhar)High hopes for record exportsHundreds of trains are set to arrive in the Port of Newcastle in coming months carrying wheat from Moree in the north, Nyngan in the west, and from as far south as Parkes.
"On paper we're set for what should be the biggest year we've ever had," Mr Carter said.
"The last two to three years we've seen one of worst droughts in NSW history, so we've actually been bringing grain into Newcastle from Western Australia, South Australia, to the domestic feed markets.
"Fortunately this year, the big positive has been the rainfall right out through western and northern NSW which has led to what could be one of the biggest crops that's ever been grown, so we're about to start exporting again.
"We're all excited about being stretched and really busy.
"Farmers have been flat out for the last month on headers stripping grain as quickly as they can, so it's looking set for a great season."
A grain train dumps its load at Newcastle Agri Terminal at the beginning of what's expected to be a record export year for grain.(ABC Newcastle: Liz Farquhar)Coal wagons modified for grainThe grain export capabilities in the Port of Newcastle allow it to cope with large train deliveries on the back of decades of investment in infrastructure for the coal export industry.
In fact the wagons being used are former coal wagons that have been modified to take grain.
"We're running much bigger trains. It's one of the big benefits of Newcastle — our train sizes are close to nearly 4,000 tonnes, which by coal standards is small, but by grain standards is very large," Mr Carter said.
These former coal wagons have been modified to carry grain into the Port of Newcastle.(ABC Newcastle: Liz Farquhar)"We're looking to increase that if we can because it makes it more efficient from our perspective. It's also better for growers.
"We're lucky that we've got this amazing legacy network so we can run some of the biggest, more efficient trains that you just can't do elsewhere.
"One of the great things is it's ability for industries like grain to leverage off what's been significant infrastructure investment over the last 50 years in coal, which I think will benefit the grain industry for years to come.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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