‘Wet drought’ to cost hundreds of millions

There are fresh calls for urgent financial support for farmers impacted by flooding, with the damage bill to wheat alone expected to exceed $150 million in the Moree area.

According to NSW Farmers, several agronomists were predicting ‘conservative’ losses of 120,000 hectares of wheat with an estimated value of between $108 million and $192 million as a result of widespread flooding in the Moree-Walgett-Narrabri area, with fears of ongoing financial turmoil once the skies clear.

The dollar value of the damage is on top of the $42 million it cost to grow the crop, which is now drowning beneath floodwater and may be a complete write-off if paddocks don’t dry out soon.

NSW Farmers Grains Committee chair Justin Everitt said some farmers were calling it a ‘wet drought’, and while it was unlikely to directly impact food prices in the short-term, there were a lot of growers who would be under pressure to try again next year.

“You spend all this money preparing your paddocks, sowing your crops, fertilising and spraying them, only to see them wiped out a couple weeks before harvest – it’s heartbreaking,” Mr Everitt said.

“Farmers know they’re taking a bit of a gamble when they’re planting a crop, but this ongoing wet weather with flood after flood after flood is just unbelievable.

“After this wet drought farmers may be faced with a ‘cash drought’ as they try to find the money to clean up and go again – the soil will be ready, but they may not be able to afford to plant in it.”

Many of the grain growing areas of the state have been affected by flooding in one way or another. In addition to the widespread crop losses from Moree in the north through to the Riverina in the south, farmhouses are directly under threat from floodwaters, and rural roads are literally crumbling beneath trucks and machinery being moved about in an attempt to salvage the 2023 winter crop.

“It’s a big turnaround in fortune from the big bumper harvest ABARES was predicting a couple of months ago,” Mr Everitt said.

“We’ve had a huge crop across the state in those places where people could get on paddocks to sow, but now that’s all under threat too.

“If we don’t dry out soon, it will be financially disastrous for a lot of growers.”

NSW Farmers Business, Economics and Trade Committee chair John Lowe said authorities were getting plenty of practice responding to natural disasters this year, and called on the federal government to bolster relief payments in this week’s budget.

“There are many impacted farmers who will be cash-poor and without an income as a result of this flooding, and that was cause widespread economic pain across rural areas,” Mr Lowe said.

“So many of our towns and businesses depend on agriculture, so it is critical farmers have the certainty to try again next season.

“Swift financial assistance – or the lack thereof – could make or break many farming communities.”

Affected farmers should report any flood damage to their properties to NSW DPI to help get support moving as quickly as possible.

Livestock producers are advised to use the NSW Government Agriculture and Animal Services Functional Area (AASFA) hotline – 1800 814 647 – for immediate assistance for affected farmers, landowners and communities in isolated areas.

To keep up to date with the latest flood information, visit www.nsw.gov.au/floods and to submit an online natural disaster damage survey, click here.

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