Australia’s Most Populous State Is 100 Percent in Drought

By Janita Kan, Epoch Times

Farmers in Australia’s most populous state have been doing it tough, battling through one of the driest winters on record. Now, their outlook may turn even bleaker since officials have declared, on Aug. 8, that the entire New South Wales is in drought.

“This is tough, there isn’t a person in the state that isn’t hoping to see some rain for our farmers and regional communities,” NSW Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair said.

In a statement to the Epoch Times, the minister said the Western, North West and Central areas of NSW have only seen 0-10 millimetres of rain over the past month.

He continued by saying that forecasts for the next three months suggest an increase in drier than normal conditions across the majority of the state.

“Producers are now faced with some very difficult decisions on whether to graze sown crops or rely on potential rainfall in the next two months in order to increase yield production,” the minister said.

“Some areas of the state did receive some welcome rainfall this month that has provided a little relief for stock and domestic water; unfortunately though it will not even come close to the recovery needed for most farmers.”

The droughts have been devastating several states across Australia, resulting in failing crops, water shortages and a diminishing supply of fodder to sustain livestock.

Severe droughts are affecting several states across the nation. National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson previously told the Australian that droughts were not only devastating regional NSW but has also affected parts of Queensland, South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, large parts of Victoria as well as South Australia’s Mallee.

A map from the Department of Primary Industries website shows about 22 percent of the state is in intense drought, including Sydney, while the rest of the state is in drought or drought affected.

The NSW government has declared 100 percent of the state is in drought. About 22 percent of the state is in intense drought as of Aug. 8, 2018. (Screenshot via NSW Department of Primary Industries/Carto)

On July 30, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced an additional $500 million in funding to help farmers affected by drought.

“We have listened to farmers throughout NSW who have told me they urgently need help,” Berejiklian said in a statement.

“To date we have already committed $584 million in drought support, most of which is focused on preparation for drought conditions.

“However, conditions are now so dire that further support is needed to address the more immediate needs for farmers and their communities until the drought breaks.”

The emergency drought relief measures also include transport subsidies, waivers on farming costs, further strengthening of the Farm Innovation Fund, as well as animal welfare measures and mental health support, according to Aug. 8’s statement.

The NSW relief measures are being supported in conjunction with a federal emergency relief package that was announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Aug. 5.

The $190 million package will make changes to the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) where couples in a household could receive up to $12,000 in two lump sum payments in addition to the current allowance, while single households could receive up to $7,200 in two lump sum payments.

The prime minister’s announcement also includes changes to the Medicare schedule to ensure it becomes easier for people to seek mental health support.

“Australian farmers are some of the most resilient and innovative business people in our country. Some farmers are in absolutely diabolical situations,” Turnbull said on Aug. 5 at Trangie, in the central west of NSW.

“Australian farmers know they face the challenges of an unpredictable climate. So they are already resilient. You should never regard Australian farmers as being helpless at all in the face of the climate. They live in this climate. They understand it better than anybody. And our job is to make sure we support them and enable their resilience.”

Farmers in Survival Mode

The demand for fodder in states affected by drought has been the highest in 10 years, according to Sydney-based market analyst Nick Crundall.

Crundall told the ABC that fodder from WA, SA and VIC was being transported to QLD and NSW in order to alleviate the critical need for feed to ensure the survival of livestock.

Australian Fodder Industry Association Chair Frank McRae also told the news broadcaster that NSW has to some extent run out of fodder for its livestock.

“There’s pretty much virtually nothing in NSW and supplies are rapidly drying up in southern Victoria,” McRae said, reported ABC.

“We’re in survival mode at the moment.

“Everyone is desperate and becoming really emotional, but I know producers out there planning and who are buying irrigation water, because as soon as temperatures warm up come mid-October, they’re going to plant fodder crops.”