Thursday, September 28, 2006




In little more than two weeks, Australians have learned that almost $1 billion worth of food crops have been lost to the effects of drought and an unexpected severe frost, which came without warning.

Prices that Australians pay for cereal-based products and stone fruits are expected to soar in the coming year.

From the Australian :

The Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics today downgraded its last forecast for the winter cereal crop, made in June, from 36 million tonnes to 26 million tonnes.

Wheat production is predicted to be 16.4 million tonnes, 35 per cent lower than last year.

But even this gloomy forecast is based on reasonable spring rainfall, and the Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting below average rains for all but the south west of Western Australia.

And more worrying are indications of a late-developing El Nino.

The Bureau reported August 2006 was the driest August on record. Record low winter falls were recorded over West Australia, and parts of eastern Australia.

ABARE reports West Australia, the biggest wheat producing state, should produce 8.4 million tonnes, down 39 per cent on last year's bumper crop.

WA canola is down 60 per cent, and lupins down a massive 77 per cent.

South Australia experienced the opposite, with a good start to the season, but no useful rain over winter. The winter brought a series of frosts, and crops in the south east are struggling.

The SA wheat crop is forecast to be down 30 per cent, barley down 44 per cent and canola down 38 per cent.

Victorian wheat is down 26 per cent, barley down 45 per cent and canola down 30 per cent.

The NSW wheat crop is forecast to be cut by one third, to 5.3 million tonnes, barley is down 40 per cent and canola 41 per cent.

Central Queensland crops have had adequate rains, but southern Queensland is dry.

...the area sown to rice expected to fall by 57 per cent, and cotton production is expected to fall by 29 per cent.

From :
Temperatures unexpectedly plunged to minus five degrees celsius on Sunday night, ruining healthy young fruit – including apricot, plum, peach and plum crops – across the region.

Federal Murray MP Dr Sharman Stone said she had written to Victorian Premier Steve Bracks calling on him to declare a natural disaster to "open the door to financial assistance for orchardists".

The frost was expected to have destroyed half the region's output of fruit, Dr Stone said.

"This follows five years of drought, hail last year at Shepparton East, the devastating frost of 2003 and record prices for water," Dr Stone said in a statement.

The news of these spectacular losses have barely registered in the Australian media.

These events will result in the loss of hundreds of permanent jobs and raise the prices Australians pay for everything from fresh bread to canned fruits, though there has been no mention yet whether these losses will result in the food shortages that drought and unexpected severe weather conditions have delivered in the US, Russia, China and the EU.

The routing of Australia's food industries by natural disasters continues...