Farmers in the north west of New South Wales could be struggling to put food on the table as a consequence of current drought conditions.
A New South Wales Government delegation is touring drought-stricken areas around Walgett and Bourke today and tomorrow before making recommendations to the Minister for Primary Industries on possible assistance for farmers.
It’s been the driest year on record in the Walgett Shire. Many farms have been destocked and only a handful of farmers will harvest crops this year. Water is becoming an issue.
Agronomic consultant Greg Rummery says it’s a unique situation.
“We are very dry. In a nutshell, we are incredibly dry,” he said.
“The last significant general fall of rain was in July 2012.”
“I will say it has caught some people by surprise, considering that in January 2012 many farms were in flood.”
Mr Rummery works across a 100-kilometre circuit reaching halfway to Brewarrina, Carinda, Come-by-Chance, Goodooga, Burren Junction, Rowena, Collarenebri and Lightning Ridge.
He says the falling grain tonnages in the Walgett Shire are indicative of severity of the dry.
“I could well and truly count on one hand the growers that I work with that will require harvesters this year, and I think I could count on two hands quiet comfortably the number of paddocks that will require harvesting,” he said.
“In 2012, we possibly went close to a million tonnes of grain all up, off a million acres.
“This year I think we will struggle to get 10,000 tonnes of grain.
This is putting financial pressure on farmers in the area.
Chief executive of the central west Rural Financial Counselling Service, Jeff Caldbeck, has just finished his own tour of the north-west and says cash flow is perhaps the most pressing issue.
He says some farmers are coming under extra stress with no income and an exhausted overdraft.
“It’s a very poor outlook,” he said.
“If you are at the end of the line after 10 years of drought and a couple of years of flood and you haven’t had a chance to get that crop together or your stock together, then it’s going to be a tough time for these guys.
“It will be very difficult to then see how you are going to put bread on the table.”