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Farmers told: ‘dry’ will stay for a tough year ahead

MAKE HAY: Gympie region graziers are urged to prepare for a dry year.
MAKE HAY: Gympie region graziers are urged to prepare for a dry year. Emily Smith

GYMPIE region producers affected by drought have been urged to begin sourcing molasses and putting other measures in place now to deal with an expected El Nino weather pattern in the coming months.

Despite recent rains, the Gympie region and about 75% of Queensland remain drought declared.

"Unfortunately for Queensland, after 18 months of severe drought there is no sign of a reprieve and we must prepare ourselves for the possibility of a delayed wet season," Agriculture Minister John McVeigh said.

"This Government first announced a drought assistance program in May 2013 and we will continue to assist our farmers through this tough time.

"The latest advice from the Bureau of Meteorology is that an El Nino pattern is expected to develop, increasing the likelihood of the current drought conditions continuing into 2015."

The dry westerlies that taunted Gympie region residents yesterday were not necessarily an ill-wind for everyone.

Lexe Ernst of Katek Fertilizers Australia at Lower Wonga welcome the dry, windy weather and have to take precautions against the kind of rain so many of their neighbours would welcome.

They let nature manufacture their organic chook manure fertiliser, piling it in long high windrows where the sun, microbes and wind dry and cure their product naturally.

"We have a big storage shed now, so wet weather doesn't worry us like it used to," Mrs Ernst said.

"We cure it the natural way, with sun, wind and time, she said."

Mr McVeigh said graziers should start planning for a delayed wet season.

"Now is the time to reassess pasture and cattle numbers and develop a dry season plan," he said.

"Plan ahead for supplements and molasses, establish contracts or purchase when there is greater availability and lower prices.

"Federal Government drought concessional loans are also available for a term of five years with interest rate of 4%. The loans will be for up to 50% of eligible farm business debt, to a maximum of $1 million. Farmers should contact QRAA for further information on 1800 623 946 or visit www. qraa.qld.gov.au."

AgForce general president Ian Burnett said he supported the advice.

"Queensland has been severely impacted by this drought and all forecasts indicate we are in for another tough 12 months ahead," Mr Burnett said.

"It is imperative that we look to secure supplies now to avoid missing out on molasses and other feedstuffs when it is too late. It is better to have the molasses in the tank and to prepare for the worst case scenario."

Topics:  dry spell el nino farmers john mcveigh wet season

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