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organic wool. Today we're checking out As the industry battles to survive, they've found a niche market these growers believe while others will struggle. which will help them prosper the weather forecasters - And we'll examine and how long will it last? why is there a drought Hello. I'm Joanne Shoebridge. Welcome to the programme. at weather I'm sure our extended look will attract a lot of interest. little time left for planting There must be precious without moisture and those brave enough to have a go about rainfall prospects would be very anxious for the next month or so. And the organic movement. have thought of organic wool? Not so many years back, who would one of the leading figures Plus our interview features Bernward Geier. from the world of organic farming, the organic market globally He says although

a year and rising, is now worth $34 billion Australia's share is minuscule. is there is a lot of space to grow. But the good part of this story of share you can have. You have to see - there is a lot It's ripe. the Australia share is 0.5. In terms of the world market, So, there's a lot of space for you. You can go for it. unified movement, a unified sector. What it takes is you need a with the Organic Federation - You're are on the way to it a number of organisations. you have established

with one logo. You need the communication But you need the political support. what's most important, And probably that's are behind it. is now that the politicians That's Bernward Geier into organic farming. with an intriguing insight More from Mr Geier shortly. and we begin with further details But first to the news summary especially in the eastern states. of the impact of the drought, a health scare at Broken Hill. The big dry has raised fears of biggest lead mines, As home to one of the world's to promote ground cover residents had been encouraged to minimise dust. have seen nature strips disappear But water restrictions and gardens die off and a return of contaminated dust. that greening process, If you take water out of the dust levels will return probably will increase. and the children's lead levels So it is a real fear. drought country Some of the hardest hit is in northern Victoria.

a town suffering Rochester is a classic case of cannot make money. because the surrounding dairies The local childcare centre admits for food parcels, to a major increase in requests will not openly ask for help. but says many farmers living on pasta, Weet-Bix, whatever. I have heard stories of people we've got to get over So the pride is the biggest barrier that it's OK to ask for help. and make country people realise have had some handy rain. Some parts of western Victoria

Farmers near Wimmera say

what could be, the rain was more of a reminder of rather than any great help.

Well I was sowing yesterday behind me for dust. and I couldn't see the implement the windows of the tractor. And then mud started running down which always seem to get rain In any drought there are areas Lower Hunter region near Newcastle. and such is the case for the struggling to stay at 40% capacity, While dams near Sydney are for the huge Grahamstown dam. the opposite is the case This dam is pretty close to 100% we've predicted, and there's more rain coming, so we'll grab what we can of that. with the rain. The truth is we've been lucky in WA It looks certain electoral reform to run the expanded electorates. will lead to much larger bills The country MPs claim are totally inadequate. current payments to represent my community. I'm here because I was elected to keep them informed, To do that you need resources, you know. to do that you need it's noticeable, believe me. And when you do things on the cheap

has again rejected a call The SA Government to cull koalas on Kangaroo Island. a $4 million program Instead it will fund to sterilise 8,000 female koalas. the money will be wasted. But ecologist Dr David Paton says a very high proportion One should cull on Kangaroo Island now, of the population of koalas until you've got it down to a level into the future that is going to be sustainable a de-sexing program. and then you maintain a cull is just not on. Premier Rann says to do - Apart from being a terrible thing a catastrophic impact it would have had and on Kangaroo Island's tourism. on SA's tourism an extensive relocation program The $4 million will also fund for the island's 30,000 koalas.

the wool industry First up today - an emerging niche market. and a close look at conference on wool Last month an international the fibre's future. heard a bleak assessment of marketers and retailers Woolgrowers, processors, major changes were warned they'd have to make to stop the crisis in confidence the industry. at virtually all levels of for some of those present Now this message may have been new heard this warning a long time ago. but for several woolgrowers they'd have already made a change These producers will give them an edge that they think over their fellow growers - the organic market. they're targeting GUITAR PLAYS Plevna Downs is near Eromanga, in Queensland's far south-west. 1,000km from Brisbane has run mainly sheep The 130,000 hectare property settled it in 1938. since the Mackenzie family a small cattle herd though They do run Channel Country producers and in the 90's joined a group of to the OBE Beef company. supplying organic beef place to run organic stock. Western Queensland's the perfect out here. We have a natural advantage not much rain - With our dry climate - we don't have the parasites that people further in have. With the cattle performing well, it seemed natural to run an organic wool flock as well. Stuart Mackenzie believes organics, particularly in Europe and the US has a big future. Oh huge. I mean it's really - because there is niche wealthy areas which are environmentally conscious and if you get in there you would have no worries at all in selling your product. There is not much around and it sort of differentiates from the rest of the market. So what did Mr Mackenzie senior think about his son's plan?. I better not say this, had I! No, I had a lot of doubts. No, I didn't say much at the time, I just - younger people you have got to let them try. Did he give you odds on whether he thought you would succeed? No, he didn't. He didn't say much at all, actually. So watching intently, no doubt. Yeah, no he was prepared to watch me make mistakes, no doubt. The Mackenzie's sell nearly all their 21 micron clip to a Germany company that sells eco-friendly clothing, but as it won't buy greasy wool, the family has to arrange processing into tops themselves. The wool's processed to organic specs at AusTop at Parkes. It's expensive, as the plant has to be completely cleaned before each batch goes through.

There is a premium. 10%, 15% - a bit more depending on how far down,

how much value you put on it. Obviously taking the tops you're adding value to that product so you pick up there as well. The Mackenzies were relieved to sell some greasy wool to America last year. So we sort of relinquished ownership of it a bit earlier than the German deal. Some of it we have sold a bit of it to New Zealand, actually a grower group over there who runs short every now and then, I think. So, yeah, there have been little bits that have gone to Japan, but we haven't sent it directly - it's through a third party. But they are all really fledgling markets, they need sort of nurturing and building and what not. It is very early days. One thing that's changed since the Mackenzie family converted to organics

is that now people call wanting to buy their wool. Stuart Mackenzie says that never happened when the family grew wool the conventional way.

I mean our wool went into auction with everyone else's and it was a lottery basically. But the first time someone actually rang up specifically wanting our wool it was actually quite exciting.

But Elders, which brokers the foreign sales, warns that organic growers face many hurdles. The problems arise when trying to do the whole thing yourself. Basically, there are enormous risks in international trade - exchange rate fluctuations can work with you and against you and you need to work through the mechanics of hedging your exchange rate. Insurance and credit insurance is more difficult to secure as a small operation,

but you then have to have credit insurance to make sure that that end user will pay you in 180 days time or whatever it is. So believe us, the aspect of international trade of wool has a fairly high risk. On top of that Elders says the Australians don't have the market to themselves. The competitors are the largest wool-producing nations that have a similar environment to our Outback or places who use limited chemicals by default, starting with the Patagonian Desert in South America the high country of New Zealand - those are the major competitors. Mr Blake warns that the market's very small and premiums aren't guaranteed.

Premiums for wool are there. They are small -

there really is no significant premium - probably not enough to offset the cost of getting into organics for wool by itself. Obviously each grower will look at it for his whole entity, but when demand for specific types of wool with organic certification comes through, sure, there is a premium and we, BWK Elders, paid it, for this clip, not more than three weeks ago. So it does come through, but it is difficult to catch the premium for that specific clip, for that specific demand. As I was saying, for the two to meet is difficult. He says the market for organic wool is driven by overseas customers prepared to reward farmers and processors for sticking with organic principles. The most focused is Germany. There is a specific customer end user and seller of organic wool. Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Scandinavian countries pursue organics quite well as do some niches in North America. A lot of this is culturally on the back of the village atmosphere of buying their fruit and vegetables from the local organic market and it then leads to buying textile products through speciality outlets. To maintain their organic certification, the Mackenzies can only feed organic grain if they're hand-feeding, must quarantine dip sites and have good fences to keep neighbour's stock out. Unless they can find an approved organic alternative, they can no longer dip, jet or drench their sheep. Which is just fine with the family. The situation - we used to spray our ewes every year through a spray race and a sheep would get stuck, and you would have to go and get them out and you would normally cop a spray as well. So I'd probably have 20 or 30 sprays in a day, whereas each sheep only gets it once, so I mean, you sort of think, well, that is probably not that good for you. We used to walk in it knee-deep half the time and be sprayed all over you and probably swallowed a bit of it but it never concerned you, as long as you had a chemical that killed blowflies or lice or whatever that was our biggest concern. But as far as affect on the humans, I don't think anyone thought too much about it. Stuart Mackenzie now wonders if the amounts he used to use - and the number of applications - were actually necessary. We used to jet our ewes before they lamb every year and when we stopped doing that, I found it made very little difference to be honest. Yeah, lice again, we backlined every second year as a preventative thing and again we went 10 years without any lice and then we had a wave of it, which I think came in on our rams. I'm not for certain. But we did what we had to do and we have been lice-free since, so, yeah, we were doing a lot of unnecessary things. While dry weather, big paddocks and fly traps helps the Mackenzies stay on top of parasites, so does selecting for fly resistance and crutching. Yeah, we will tend to crutch - crutch all of the adult sheep anyway every year before we go in to the fly season

and then you probably won't have a problem, rather than waiting until you have got a fly problem and then having to jet them or whatnot, so it does work very well for us out here. So, what's the shearing team make of the change?

I think it is a great alternative way to market wool, not only in Australia, but throughout the world and especially in this area where you can do it but I think it is something for the future. I reckon he is on the right thing. Yeah, it is pretty good. Wools wool to me. Yeah, it doesn't matter what it is it is all wool Has it been an issue ever for you in your shearing career - the chemicals? Yes, there has been times when we have went to sheds and the grazier might have just treated them for flies and then run them in, so you certainly get a smell of chemicals straight away. So you can sometimes smell chemicals on sheep that you are shearing? Yeah, yeah you can, which is quite scary really.

I'm not worried at all about the chemicals in the wool

because I don't feel it makes a difference at all. It doesn't really worry me because we are told that they are supposed to be safe, but I don't know. Like you often get a rash that will come up for no apparent reason and you can always put it down to chemical, basically.

Stuart Mackenzie says he's confident that soon, several organic producers will form an exporting group. Last year, the wool that went to America - actually another grower had wool in that, as well from Longreach - so that was the first time we have put a couple of clips together.

There is no reason why that can't continue and obviously the bigger supply we get then the markets can grow accordingly. One person who may join is former Wool Corp chairman, Mac Drysdale. His property at Augathella in Queensland's west has nearly finished its 3-year conversion period. We went into organic on the grounds of philosophical reasons as opposed to straight-out marketing advantages. So I guess the philosophy has changed to being one of wanting not to have the most sheep

and necessarily chasing the last dollar to running as good a sheep as anyone else has got in the district

and looking after your environment while you do it. The early pour-ons used to cause me some problems and I think there was a couple of brands that used to make peoples faces itch at best and if not, you know, skin would lift, or whatever. There were some of those that were of some concern, but as far as the various dips that we used through our sheep dips and shower dips, for example, they were...no, I didn't find that concerning. I guess now I reflect on it, I probably didn't use them as safely as I should have. Mr Drysdale says switching wasn't hard - his flock was worm-free, so he'd already stopped drenching, and for years he'd been selecting for blowfly resistance. The end result is now

even when we have some big wet weeks every now and again - if we got 4 or 5 inches on 4,000 or 5,000 sheep, you know, we might get one or two that get blown, so you can select for them, there is no doubt about that. On top of that, as long as you can mules, you are right.

But I certainly don't want to go back to jetting. I haven't done it for 12 years and I don't intend to start again. He hasn't dipped for lice for three years but knows a wet spring will be a challenge. You know people who have been in this a lot longer than I have tell me that after 8 or 10 years, they still have only dipped once and that means they have had more wet springs than that - probably not many more, but they have had more than that. So it is very much a case of just wait and see how it goes. Mr Drysdale's says a surprisingly profitable offshoot is organic lamb. So, the advantages are more in the meat side. On the wool side we have got a lot of work to do yet, as far as getting some established and regular market for organic wool. Both men say there's more to going organic than phasing out chemicals. They say part of the organic philosophy is running an environmentally sustainable property. People tend to think organics is just not using chemicals - land management is a big part of it and the catch cry of organics is "sustainability", both economically, ecologically and environmentally. We have got to understand what the impacts we are having on our land. Most producers do that as a regular basis, we just think that going organic just takes it that one step a little bit further along the road. Unlike Stuart Mackenzie, Mr Drysdale says he doesn't want the risks of turning his wool into top or dealing in foreign currency. He hopes an Australian producer group can sign a long-term deal with a customer prepared to pay a premium. Yeah, we need to get volume up and it is one of the biggest issues over the last 10 to 15 years in the Australian wool industry is many people have said we can go and do something else, we can value-add our product and all the rest of it and they find at the end of the day they just simply don't have the volume. Mr Drysdale thinks more producers will make the move to organics. There are very few sheep producers left in this part of the world at the moment but those that are - some of them have spoken to me and said, you know, "It is time we start to do some of this." So, I think it is going to grow. But what about mulesing? Well, the Mackenzies are foreseeing problems stopped.

I thought I don't want someone coming along and saying, "Look, we will buy it, "but if you are mulesing sheep, I don't think we can." So, we will see how we go without mulesing until they come up with an alternative method, yeah.

Mac Drysdale says PETA's put organic growers in a catch-22 situation. Recently one of the representatives of that particular group indicated that we didn't need to mules anymore because you can jet. What are they saying to me, you know - "I want you to go back to using chemicals now?" I would have thought that that particular group of people would, in fact, not want us to be using chemicals. Elders says the world market for organic wool is between 200 and 300 tonnes and growing slowly. It says the future for Australian producers who want to take advantage of the niche market is good. Organic wool is sought-after, so the future is very positive from where we see it. Stuart Mackenzie believes demand for organic fibres will grow just like organic food has. I think it will be similar. I think it's moving away from... because food - conventional food - they are trying to make safer all the time anyway. It will become less of a health issue and more of an environmental issue, I think. So that is where the textiles will basically move at the same rate as foods from that point.

Mac Drysdale says if wealthy eco-consumers are prepared to reward farmers and processors for green practices, Australian producers could benefit. That's what the market is and it is a small market, but when you get 5% of consumers in Europe thinking like that, well, that grows

and it becomes quite a substantial amount that has got to be filled. You are the chairman of Country Road, will the first organic woollen jumpers in Australia

be available in Country Road? Well, why not? It is a good product and a good brand name, so we might as well put the two together. Are you glad you made the switch? Oh, yes. I think so. It is not causing any bother at the moment. It gives Stuart a lot more work as far as markets and all this type of thing - everything has got to be spot-on.

It gives him a lot more work. No, I think that it's, you know, if you are game enough to do it, I think it is the right thing to do. Nice not being a price taker? That's the idea, yeah. One of the leaders of the global organic movement says he's encouraged by Australia's efforts to make it easier for consumers to identify genuine organic products when they go shopping. Bernward Geier, a director of IFOAM, The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, says Australia accounts for barely half a per cent of annual worldwide organic sales worth about $34 billion. He told Peter Lewis adopting a single universally recognised labelling system helped move organics from niche markets into mainstream supermarkets

in both Europe and North America and the same will happen in Australia. In terms of market shares, we look at Denmark, which has a total share of 6% of the total food market already. When it comes to products that - say dairy products or potatoes or carrots, it can easily reach 30%, up to 50% of the total market. We have supermarket chains with a lot of outlet stores that sell nothing but organic bread. The most striking example is probably the baby food sector - in Germany, you would have a hard time to find non-organic baby food, so that baby food is 90% organic. That's a good, interesting story to look at because if you ask parents, "What do you want for your kids?", they will say, "The very best when it comes to food." So obviously the very best when it comes to food in their perception is organic. All it takes now is to communicate, "OK, the very best for the baby for the whole family", and you get the main market. Now, what was the breakthrough for organics in Europe?

How long was it, how hard was it to gain that market acceptance? It was a bit uphill and it was not that easy. It needs a lot of communication. You have to have people's interest in knowing where the food comes from, how it is produced, but that works, you know. We are known that we care about environment - we care about environment so much because we destroy it so much, that is the other side of the medal, but it took a lot of political support. Our minister is a Green. We have ministers that compete in Europe

on having the highest conversion to organic

and they compete 10%, 15%. Our minister wants 20% organic by the year 2010, so we have a European action plan for organic farming, we have subsidy programs in place to help the farmers converting. But overall the main factor is organic has developed over the last decades demand-driven. Consumers want the food and it's the farmers that lag behind to convert to deliver what the consumer wants. Now, I imagine labelling is one of the critical issues? It's very central. It's very central, because we communicate through the labels. We have the story and the people should know the story about the food but it boils down to the label and I can give an example again from Germany. organisations. We have 48 certification from the supermarket chains, We have about 100 labels their own brandings, and with the import labels, would know probably 250 labels. the organic consumer It's a nightmare, it's impossible. one national logo, The moment our minister introduced the whole thing took off like crazy. on 26,000 packaged products We have this national logo and it's just amazing and she put a 20 million euro a year program for the labelling. for promotion and marketing support it's on the billboards, everywhere, It's on national TV, it's in the magazines. That's how you grow your market. You say it's demand-driven.

in Australia One gets a sense that consumers organic products would probably buy more if they could source them how to identify them. and if they knew That's right. they need to trust into it, They need to know, is very important, so the organic guarantee system the legal backing, the enforcing, the certification, the inspection, the prevention of fraud, on organic, because as there's a premium price there's a tendency for fraud. completely in Europe with the law We have cleaned up the act that they get what they want and people trust a better price. and they are prepared to pay is there going to be that premium? For farmers, Is that the incentive for them?

Absolutely. It has to be. or more expensive price for organic, We are not talking about high prices we talk about fair prices. money that he can stay in farming. The farmer needs to get the all over the world There is a farming crisis give the farmer because we are not prepared to a fair share of the price. of what the food costs for us A small, small fraction ends up on the farm. We have to change this of this. and organic is a way out organic farms are more profitable. Again the statistics show that the

you save on chemicals You save on input, and you get a premium price. of a lower yield - So even if you have a little bit high and low yields either, we don't talk about we talk about optimal yields - so if you have your optimal yield, of the day, more money. you still have, at the end You have mentioned performers in organics. some of the outstanding market to long term What's your feeling in the medium will be about how mainstream organics big-brand supermarkets and how many of the mainstream will start stocking this? They do already. do already. The supermarket chains for them it's very profitable. They have understood that I just read on my way over here chain. the statistics of one supermarket the annual profit, Their profit is 3.6%, the profit rate is 60%. but in the organic sector So they do their calculations. the money in the future. They know where they can make To take any example, multinational corporations, look at all the big

be it Nestle, be it Unilever - they are all into organic. has joined Even McDonald's lately in Germany, organic milk and they sell, in England, by 50%. and they have increased sales I think it's great. I am not promoting and the fast-food culture. that we should convert McDonald's If they go, that's fine. The milk sales went up 50%. That means the kids drink less Coke. I think that's great. for joining us on Landline. Berward Geier, thank you Thank you.

to weather. Moving on from organics in the bush Now weather is always a hot topic lack of rain. and more so when there's a distinct to talk about This week there'll be much more leading long-range forecasters as Landline puts Australia's

through the hoops the critical question - and asks them when will this drought break? is further evidence And we examine whether this drought of global climate change. there's no doubt it is There are many who believe

that it's time we abandoned and argue, controversially, too marginal to farm. some districts now proving EERIE MUSIC It's very severe. It could have an ongoing impact, performance, not only on our economic of the people who are affected. but more particularly, on the lives

at the Drought Summit The big attendance of the desperation now being felt was a clear indication in rural Australia. It's alarming, it's catastrophic. Imagine the outcry income decimated for four years if people in the city had their of this scale. because of a natural disaster Go and talk to Mr Costello this great big surplus and tell him he has was going to do for all the farmers but he never mentioned what he or the drought. living on pasta, Weet-Bix, whatever. I have heard stories of people People will try to get out, go through it again, they won't want to who are getting old. particularly those

I've ever seen it. This is the worst economic effects of drought. We can calculate the strangling the psychological toll it takes We can provide counselling to ease on those caught in its shadow. crippling drought We can measure that this current in 100 years. stems from the driest decade science and sophistication, But for all our modern-day one age-old answer still eludes us: when it will end. in the middle of May I'm still irrigating now which I never have before. I'm not sure which. I'm either smart or dumb, Not telling. we'll know the answer to that. In another month, fairly serious. But I think the whole thing looks 10 years of this now. Even in irrigation districts, as having reliable rainfall, or those classed critical questions are emerging. merely an aberration, Is this prolonged drought of profound climatic change? or is it evidence Mary Voice, formerly of the National Climate Centre, has few doubts. That's the $64 question, of course. We know that there's a decade of climate variability - from decade to decade, the climate looks different - but we're also seeing long-term trends superimposed on that. What's the best estimate? That it's caused by greenhouse-induced global warming, and my best estimate - my personal best estimate - is that it's probably about a 70% chance that it's due to the enhanced greenhouse effect. Independent long-range forecaster, Sydney-based Don White

cites historical evidence. Well, I think we have to consider that there might be climatic change rather than saying is a place is in drought every second year or in drought for five or six years in a row. I don't believe there's such a thing as a 6-year drought. I believe once there is six years of below-average rainfall, we have to start thinking about climatic change.

If we look at climatic or rainfall records in south-eastern Australia, especially since white settlement, it was quite dry in the early part of the 19th century - we have very limited records from there. We then had a very wet period right up to about 1898. By the late 1890s they were growing wheat almost as far west as Cobar in New South Wales. So there was areas that were getting a lot more rainfall than they were getting. Then we had this major drought in 1900, sort of almost a climatic correction. The next 50 years, Lake George near Canberra was dry. It was fairly dry. Parkes, for example, taking a centre in central New South Wales, only exceeded their average rainfall for 13 years out of those 50. Then the climate changed.

Lake George filled up and for 31 of the next 50 years, Parkes exceeded its average rainfall. In the last five or six years, it's definitely looking as though we're going back

to the weather patterns predominant in the 1940s, '30s and '20s.

That was a drier Australia, at least a drier inland south-eastern Australia and we might have to, therefore, consider modifying some of our farming practices in light of that. Across the continent, the Bureau of Meteorology recorded the start of the year as the second-driest yet seen. Much of southern Australia experienced its warmest Autumn in at least 50 years. We've had very high temperatures since the start of the year as well. April for instance was 3.1 degrees above average over the whole continent.

The previous record was only 2.4 degrees above average in 2002.

For farmers, it's a double-edged sword. increased evaporation The high temperatures have probably people in not getting enough rain, and made things a bit harder for but you're right, the soil temperatures a bit warmer the warm temperatures will have kept window out a few weeks. and may well extend the planting Across the Australian grains belt, considered the cut-off date Anzac Day has long been for sowing winter crops. If the rain hasn't come by then, dwindle by the day. the chances of any sort of yield

there have been clouds in the sky. At least in the past two weeks, I suppose, Well, at least it's a good sign, for a change, seeing some clouds in the sky

you know, three or four weeks or so, compared to what we've had the last, cloud in the sky, let alone rain. where we've hardly even seen any So if we can, sort of, keep getting and whatever, some build-up of moisture make a mistake soon. well, hopefully it might and sheep farmer Dean Wormald is a mixed cropping in South Australia's Mallee. on some 2,000 hectares near Loxton To conserve scarce moisture, methods of planting. Wormald employs minimum till the dry powdery soil. But there's no disguising a pretty ordinary run. We've sort of had have been very close to droughts Two out of the last three years or very dry years, I think you'll probably find so financially of the country that this particular area on its cash reserves is starting to get very low the businesses and whatever, to be able to keep sustaining so I think for the whole region, it's very concerning on top of last year and 2002. if we do have another dry year, rainless skies? So why the cloudless, have made it worse, Well, the blocking highs especially over the last few months. anywhere in south-eastern Australia Why it hasn't rained virtually since early February these big blocking highs., is because you have had in south-eastern Australia, When we talk about anywhere we're talking about inland have often given onshore winds because the big blocking highs along the New South Wales coast, so there's been reasonable rainfall, north from Sydney. especially along the coast But over the inland have dominated these high-pressure systems April and May, and therefore, once we get into haven't been able to push through the southern ocean fronts ocean fronts and we need the southern the atmosphere a bit to start stirring up and getting things moving again. It's the strength of the - coming across what I call the weather currents of the dominant current there and the highs

pushing the lows down. and they're just out and fanatical weather watcher John Moore is a former farmer turned long-range forecaster. a break quite close by. I'm positive about there being have been earlier, I had thought it might the end of April, perhaps even towards by the end of May, but certainly I think we'll see a substantial break, and then looking at the way Western Australia at the moment, the cold fronts are coming into over two or three weeks we could see two or three different rain events, to start the grass growing which hopefully will be enough and get the crops in the ground.

could be a bit on the dry side, I think July and August for September, October and November. but I am predicting a good spring Perhaps a little bit concerned northern New South Wales, as to how far into but then the recent rains up there at the moment is promising, and the rain along the coast and give us a good general break. that that could come further inland drought-breaking, JOURNALIST: It may not have been in central Queensland but it was enough to give graziers on the Sunshine Coast and fruit growers something to smile about. Look, all indications are or two rain events that there will be at least one cloud bands developing in those north-west in the next four to six weeks. it will give some moisture around That will give farmers some hope, chance of that occurring. and I think there's a reasonable

In around about 70% to 75% of years to what we've got at the moment, where we've had a similar pattern in June, there has been a reasonable break so the odds are on our side. of the years, nothing happened, Of course, that means 25% it's looking at the moment, but, you know, the way a reasonable break coming up will be sufficient but I don't think that break to get us out of the woods a weak El Nino in spring, and if we do get into then we've got real problems. is more pessimistic. The National Climate Centre our probalistic model suggests Going into winter, or slightly less chance there's around about 50% of getting above-normal rainfall for much of the continent. This gets lower - through parts of Victoria around about 40% and also southern Western Australia. there's a 30% to 50% chance The centre calculates drought-causing of the characteristically El Nino weather pattern re-emerging. the central Pacific, gets too warm - So if the tropical Pacific, if gets excessively warm - little bit like an El Nino pattern, and we have something that looks a a classic El Nino, doesn't have to be

then we get a reduction in rainfall and that's almost as simple as that.

The analysis we've conducted, a very, very low chance - there'd only be perhaps 10% or 20% chance or even weakening. of the drought breaking I think that we'd have to wait summer season or Autumn of 2006 at least until the coming to the system. to see any major change 24 El Ninos in the past century El Nino - we've seen around about

in significant drought. and only 10 of them really resulted So El Nino does not equal drought. John Moore is in agreement. On that score, the end of the drought I had expected last year to be

and it went fairly well that way, in October. except I really bombed out I didn't expect that hot weather and I had expected 25 or 50mm then difference to last year. which would have made a great Farmers who were able to make hay in the spring now find such fodder an increasingly precious commodity. As hopes of an Autumn break diminish, in Victoria, hay and fodder merchants have dispatched supplies to all points of the compass. This time, for the first time, we've got a real wagon-wheel effect. Quite a bit into New South Wales in the Ivanhoe hay, in those areas, Balranald for sheep and then even some demand coming from the western district

to go back to both dairy and beef cattle, even people who've just run out of hay supplies down there and they think that now they haven't got a break, they're gonna have to feed cattle for another couple of months

even if it rains now. And then Gippsland, a big demand has just come on down there.

There's just not a lot of hay done last year,

and demand's just really outstripping supply by a long way, right through South Australia and through all of Victoria and then back up through New South Wales and Queensland. So, yeah, I'm not sure what they're gonna do. I've just been up to the other side of Ivanhoe and yeah, it's fairly dry. It's just like the concrete here. Just nothin'. Just the kangaroos on the side of the road and that.

What's the country look like - just bare? Just bare, yep. And the stock are really struggling up there.

They're on the edge, yeah, especially up north. They've had three or four bad years and they're really doin' it tough. In New South Wales, they were probably waiting for the break and then they haven't got a break, so now the ewes are starting to lamb and they've got to make a decision: do we keep 'em or do we sell 'em? Yeah, the demand on there, too, so yeah, you really feel for 'em. This was the scene last winter on Roly Dye's sheep and cropping property at Coreen, north of the Victorian border town of Corrowa. Less than a year later, he's forced to feed a grain ration to his lambing ewes. Summer rains have delivered just enough moisture to plant a barley crop. It's going into a dry seed bed. It will sit there till it rains on it but we've got a little bit of subsoil moisture in this area. We only need a small shower of rain and the crop should get away. Dye bases some of his management decisions on John Moore's forecasts. This is probably the shakiest time we've had with John, I think, especially this last couple of months, but they all tell us that the late Autumn part is hard to pick and John's revised his forecast, and, you know - at least John's gone out there and sort of made a few predictions. And even this sign behind us of a jet stream, what does that indicate? moisture up in the air. Firstly, it indicates that there's the ring around the moon - It's a bit like that the moon's reflecting off, the moisture in the air are much the same, and I think the jet trails and also, you know, nature's indicators there's a few pretty reliable in the area here. for two or three years Springs that haven't run in the last three or four weeks. have started flowing quite strongly adapted those indexes Unfortunately, we haven't quite into our models as yet, what people have to say, but it's always interesting to hear of truth in those folklore. and there's probably a grain where it comes to all those things. No, I'm afraid I'm a bit of a cynic is a meteorological feature, The ring around the moon of course because the ring around the moon thin high cloud, means that there's some thin high cloud and quite often to form sort of causes the ring from the moon in the refractive light the thin high cloud. into the ice crystals of

a major cold change, Often that precedes

the northern hemisphere so especially in comes from the west, where all weather and at this time of the year from the west in Australia, where a lot of weather does come can be an indication the ring around the moon is developing. that the high cloud As far as a major rain event or the seasons - or affecting the climates no, nothing. What does that mean? Seen a spider web here before. spider webs. We'd like to see a lot of

a change in the wind I used to think there was some spider webs, within three days of seeing was the case. so we'd like to think that of farmers across the nation, So as with tens of thousands as much in hope as expectation. this crop is being sown arable land drought affected, With about half of Australia's this drought could be catastrophic, the economic consequences of it could wipe off up to a third with some forecasters predicting economic growth. of Australia's forecast has spent this week Just as Federal Cabinet packages, formulating drought assistance has also been doing his sums. Roger Stone probabilities, You combine that with low rainfall a high risk of late damaging frosts, fairly risk-averse if you can. it's probably the type of year to be not planting a crop, That doesn't mean not applying heaps of nitrogen but it may mean on nitrogen fertiliser and spending $100,000 to take up that fertiliser when the crop's not going in this type of year. To me, it's a matter of working out: with the land what's the best you can do that you have in the soil, with the amount of moisture that you're likely to get the amount of rainfall accordingly over a period of time. and adjust our farming practices It's not going to be easy, an adaptation process but I think we do have to do like decades. over a period of time,

We do need our agriculture industry, but there's marginal areas in NSW to reconsider the use of the land that I think people might have a 10% or 20% lower rainfall regime and perhaps adapt it to, say, during the 1970s, '80s and '90s. than they have been experiencing

The cattle market remains firm, an ominous signal although there could be are full. from the fact that feedlots Pig farmers are being hit by imports Lambs continue to strengthen, and wool had another poor week. with export cattle. Let's start the price check as usual as winter descends, Empty cows are being offloaded a fairly strong market. but it's still

this past week - Young cattle dominated the markets the total on offer. more than 50% of proportion - more than 40% - Surprisingly, a significant cattle slaughter of the current Queensland is said to be female cattle. Lots of grainfed cattle around as well. and supplementary-fed cattle

are absolutely chockers. I'm told feedlots around the country lighter steers They only want the younger,

and the heavyweights are in trouble. on the rest of the market And of course that will impact over coming weeks. The obvious equation is - in a feedlot if you can't find a space and you've got no feed for whatever price you can get. you have to sell today quoted at Port Hedland - Checking some live export prices Now, some numbers on beef.

Lambs jumped up 12c to $3.49. retail demand is strong Numbers were way down - and if history is a teacher, strengthen as the weather cools. lamb prices will continue to Mutton lost 1 cent back to $1.73. for the Saudi trade WA is waiting anxiously to resume - in that state. prices are already on the up To pigs now.

across all states, And quotes were generally cheaper except WA, where prices were firm. on prices from imported product. There's significant pressure as the winter sets in. Hopefully prices might pick-up dairy market - Checking the international Turning to grains now -

The International Grain Council at 604 million tonnes - has pegged world wheat production

625 million tonnes. this is down from last year's The July 2005 sugar futures now - And now to our wool report. across the microns, Where prices slipped 1.2% in the 18-21 micron range. as there seemed to be an over-supply China was strong in the market. Europe was very quiet. First to the regional indicies - Melbourne and Fremantle. Sales this week will be in Sydney, are currently rostered for sale. Just over 62,000 bales And that's the commodities report Sunday the May 29. for the week ending the drought and the weather Property prices continue to defy they also defy logic. and for many, perhaps, An example - at Bungendore near Canberra a 2,000 hectare grazing property sold recently for $7.5 million. $1,600 an acre, in the old terms. That's nearly $4,000 a hectare or Good luck to the buyers. Let's hope they - in fact, let's hope everybody gets some rain very very soon. Now onto the rain fall chart and let's head straight for the national map. As we head into the first official week of winter that's a fairly typical pattern for this time of year.

And that's where the rain's been falling over the past week. Next week on Landline, an investigation into the devastating citrus canker outbreak which continues to have a serious impact on Australia's citrus industry. 11 months after the eradication program began, a third property has been identified with suspected citrus canker and growers are facing further uncertainty and hardship. While industry, bureaucrats and politicians deflect the blame, there's still no inquiry to investigate how this major exotic disease breached Australian quarantine. There has to be an investigation, there has to be a proper inquiry conducted on how canker got into Australia - how canker got onto Evergreen property and how canker has been allowed to escape out of there and ruin peoples lives and livelihoods. The blame game over citrus canker. That's next week on Landline. And that's it for today. I hope you've enjoyed the show, a reminder our repeat time is 11 o'clock on Monday morning. One last thing before I go - don't forget that it's the Salvation Army's Red Shield Appeal this weekend. You can make a donation by calling - I'm Joanne Shoebridge, until next time, goodbye from Landline. Captions by Captioning and Subtitling International.