SYDNEY • A drought across Australia's east coast has intensified after near record-low levels of rain across much of the region over the past five months, the country's weather bureau said yesterday.
Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said nearly all of the country's east coast recorded well below average rains between April 1 and Aug 31, plunging nearly all of the region into drought. Last week, it said the east coast will continue to experience dry weather for at least the next three months, offering little relief for struggling farmers.
The drought sweeping through Australia's east, the country's main food bowl, is the worst in living memory and is decimating wheat and barley crops and leaving grazing land parched.
In New South Wales (NSW), the entire state is in drought three months out from the start of the important wheat harvest.
Recent erratic rains can do little to salvage crops that have already failed, or were not planted at all.
The NSW wheat crop is forecast to come in at 2.4 million tonnes, according to Glencore Agriculture, less than one-third its 10-year annual average.
While the drought is most acute in NSW, it extends north into Queensland and is also cutting production in some south-eastern grain-growing areas, meaning a lean year for the country's largest agricultural export.
Australia is the world's fourth-largest wheat exporter.
One saving grace is an anticipated bumper wheat crop in Western Australia, which is expected to enjoy a harvest in excess of 10 million tonnes this season, about two million tonnes above its 10-year average.