Water Week

EWN Publishing

Nearly 69 per cent of Australia’s agricultural land eligible for drought support; economic growth set to suffer as farm output faces slowdown in absence of water

Posted by waterweek on 4 October 2007

According to Asa Wahlquist and Pia Akerman, in The Australian, (26/09/2007, p.4), nearly 69 per cent of Australia’s agricultural land was eligible for drought support with an estimated 100,000 of the country’s 129,000 farmers working in drought-declared areas and an unprecedented 23,000 farmers receiving drought support last month, the number having risen since. Situation worse than 2002-03: Drought conditions in 2002-03 dragged gross domestic product down by one percentage point, a situation repeated last year, with economic growth reduced by about 0.75 percentage points. But the current dry was biting deeper:

  • The grain crop had been downgraded from 37 million tonnes to 25 million;
  • Milk production had fallen from 11.4 billion litres, before the drought struck in 2002, to a projected 9.23 billion litres this year;
  • Sheep numbers had fallen 21 per cent since 2002, while wool production had fallen from 645,000 tonnes in 2002 to 438,000 tonnes this financial year; and
  • Cattle numbers had fallen from 27.72 million in 2002 to 25.4 million.

Wine production under threat: The 2008 winegrape vintage could be reduced to between 800,000 tonnes and 1.3 million tonnes, down from 1.9 million tonnes. Almost all horticulture and vineyards in the Murray valley —worth an estimated $1 billion —were at risk. They needed at least 48 per cent of water allocations to survive, more if they were to produce fruit.

Farmers along Murray face acute shortage: On the NSW side of the Murray, farmers were receiving no water, on the Victorian side 10 per cent and in South Australia, producers would get 16 per cent next month.

The Australian, 26/9/2007, p.4

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