Drought ravages salad-bowl regions

Australia: Queensland farmer spends $800,000 carting water

This summer season, Queensland fruit and vegetable growers have to go to extraordinary lengths to grow crops. One farmer has spent in excess of $800,000 this season on having water carted in, while another has moved to the pricey options of greenhousing.

Currently, 65.2 percent of the state is drought-declared, which includes some of the state's key horticultural areas. Farmers in the Granite Belt have told ABC this drought is their "worst in living memory". The region produces up to $350 million of fruit and vegetables every year, but this year that has been at risk with the area running out of water.

It forced farmer Tim Carnell to spend more than $800,000 carting water to ensure he got a crop of tomatoes and capsicums. "We started carting water on November 28 and we've only just knocked the trucks off, 176 days after we started. We had Christmas and Boxing Day off but every other day and night, we had one, two, up to three semi-tankers running 24 hours a day, seven days a week — to keep our vegetable operation going. Our family spent in excess of $800,000 carting water this year to finish off the farms.”

"We didn't cart water for our crops to grow, it was just supplementing them to get that extra yield. We have a high-value crop with high-value customers and that was just what we had to do to get through the season."

Mr. Carnell said the last time his family carted water for their crops was in 2006–2007, but at the time their business was only 5 percent of what it is today. "We've seen it dry but not for as long as it has gone on for now," he said. "It's been close to two years since we've had really good rain, Cyclone Debbie was the last good drink here and that was March 2017."

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