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Published February 03, 2014, 10:52 AM

Leading exporter Australia battles drought

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.

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 tons 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 state 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.

Forecasts called for substantial rains in parts of Queensland in late January, and many hoped it would bring the relief ag producers needed.

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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