‘In a word, it’s horrific’: Farmers abandon hope
THE drought has tightened its grip over southern Queensland in the past four weeks as the October storms fail to materialise and many Granite Belt farmers abandon hope for a summer crop.
The big dry is now impacting on farmers through thousands of square kilometres from the Lockyer Valley just west of Brisbane through Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt and out to St George which has just broken a 90-year record by recording 122 days without rain.
Policy and advocacy manager at Growcom, Richard Shannon, who recently visited the Granite Belt said the situation had deteriorated markedly over the past few weeks.
"In a word, it's horrific,'' he said.
Many farmers have already decided not to plant crops including capsicums, tomatoes and strawberries because the creeks they source water from have dried up.
"Its probably too late anyway as the window is rapidly closing, if it has not closed already,'' Mr Shannon said.
Some growers, such as the Baronio family which runs the massive Eastern Colour operation outside Stanthorpe concentrating heavily on strawberries, can access on-farm water and will be producing summer crops.
Others have gone outside the district and leased land in neighbouring districts such as Warwick to take an expensive punt, and plant a summer crop.
Mr Shannon said the support of Queensland fruit and veg buyers was now more important than ever.
"We would say to people heading to the supermarket please look for local product because it will be of good quality and your support will help our farmers.''
David Andreatta, who farms at Ballandean outside Stanthorpe, says he will plant about one per cent of his normal crop, just to keep his hand in the game.
"I am doing it just for my own amusement because you never know _ it might rain,'' he said.
With just 45mm of rain over four days in October, the soil which normally produces tonnes of capsicums and tomatoes will not sustain a summer crop.
Mr Andreatta, a progressive farmer who also runs hi-tech packing business "Kool Country Packers,'' will feel the drought at both ends of his operation.
"If we pack 5 per cent of what we normally pack I'd be happy.''
In Stanthorpe Southern Downs mayor Tracy Dobie is finalising plans to truck in water this December after the Storm King Dam failed to capture enough rain in October.
The council will truck in water from near Warwick and unload it into storage tanks which will feed the water into the treatment plant by gravity.
The plan should provide the town with enough water until around August next year when, if good rains don't fall, bore water may have to be accessed.