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Published January 30, 2014, 10:02 AM

Aussies battle drought, but relief could be coming

It’s two months into the Australian summer and many sugarcane growers and ag producers there need rain badly, a sugarcane industry official says.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

It’s two months into the Australian summer and many sugarcane growers and ag producers there need rain badly, a sugarcane industry official says.

Agweek asked Suzi Moore, communication director for Canegrowers Australia, which represents 80 percent of the country’s sugarcane growers, about the drought that’s hammering parts of Australia, a lead exporter of sugar, wheat and beef.

In an email, Moore says two-thirds of Queensland, a key agricultural state, is in drought because last year’s wet season failed to deliver rain.

“Many of the large inland cattle properties have destocked, pushing large numbers of animals onto the market and taking export sales of beef to record levels during 2013. Those that have kept key breeding stock are feeding out tonnes of hay, cottonseed, molasses and other feedstock each week in a bid to keep the animals alive,” she says.

“Some cropping areas are also feeling the effects of the lack of rain with sorghum plantings now struggling and sugarcane producers fearing for their next harvests,” she says.

New South Wales is the other Australian hurt by poor rains last year, she says.

Drought-stricken ag producers are receiving government grants for transporting stock feed, emergency water infrastructure and rebates on some taxes and land rent costs. There’s also funding for community support measure and charity organizations, she says.

But help could be on the way for hard-pressed Australian agriculturalists. Forecasts call for substantial rains in parts of Queensland in late January.

Moore mentioned the potential relief in her email.

“There is a low forming off the coast of north Queensland, and sugarcane growers are eyeing it nervously, waiting to see if it becomes a cyclone or whether it remains non-destructive but brings rainfall to parched sugarcane growing areas along the coast instead,” Moore says.

American officials told Agweek previously that they don’t expect the Australian drought to have much impact on U.S. sugar, wheat and beef prices.

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