Drought worsens in Australia

The Big DryMAJOR cropping regions of NSW are in “urgent need” of rain as a greater portion of the state slips into drought, the state government has warned.

The latest drought figures show 62.7 per cent of the state was in drought during May, up from 48.4 per cent in April.

“These figures speak for themselves – unfortunately this month has seen a dramatic increase in the area affected by drought,” Primary Industries Minister Ian MacDonald said in a statement.

“The north west of the state from Broken Hill to Tibooburra received no rain last month, while the rest of the western half of the state and the southern part … received very little.

“As a result, seasonal conditions are continuing to deteriorate, and all cropping areas are in urgent need of good rainfall to consolidate crops that have been sown and enable remaining seed to be planted.”

The drought figures also showed that just 13.6 per cent of the state is classified as `satisfactory’, down from 28 per cent in April.

“Areas that have slipped back into drought include all or parts of Milparinka, Cobar, Dubbo, Molong, Central Tablelands, and Mudgee in the west, Coonabarabran, Tamworth and Northern Slopes in the north-west, Bombala, Cooma and Braidwood in the south,” Mr MacDonald said.

“About 63 per cent of the estimated 243,970 hectares of canola and 26 per cent of the 3.31 million hectares of wheat has been sown.

“Winter crop estimates currently stand around 5.25 million hectares, which while slightly above in recent years, is dependant on rain.

“The biggest challenge faced by growers, especially in northern NSW, is the declining soil moisture levels.”

Above average temperatures and frosts have contributed to the drying of soil moisture, Mr MacDonald said.

“These poor seasonal conditions also impact on the livestock industries, with reduced grazing production, especially in central and southern areas,” he said.

“There continues to be an increase in numbers of stock going to saleyards as the confidence in securing winter cropping deteriorates.

“All in all, it paints a pretty grim picture for our farming sector, and we can only hope June produces some good winter rainfall to help crops and pasture growth.”

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