8 Dec 2008

Drought feared in eastern areas

6:07 am on 8 December 2008

Farmers in eastern parts of the country are starting to reduce stock numbers and brace themselves for the possibility of another drought, following the failure of late spring rains.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research says some areas still recovering from last summer's drought are in serious soil moisture deficit once again.

A NIWA agricultural climatologist Alan Porteous said the chances of recovering from that moisture shortage in the summer are not looking good.

He said rainfall over the past month has been less than 50% of normal levels in many areas and less than 30% or even 20% in much of the east coast.

Mr Porteous said even though average rainfall is predicted over much of the country this summer, more than normal rainfall is needed to get soil moisture levels and pasture production back to the normal expected levels.

He says there's only a 20% - 30% chance there will be above normal rainfall.

He says mid-Canterbury, Hawke's Bay and inland Otago are among the driest regions and Waikato is also drier than it should be.

Mr Porteous says the King Country, Taranaki, Nelson and Southland are still in reasonable shape, as is the Far North.

A South Canterbury cropping farmer and contractor, Jeremy Talbot, says conditions are getting so dry in that region that some grain and seed crops aren't going to survive.

He says from October there has been virtually no rain.

Mr Talbot says stock is eating brassica crops and grain crops in some areas and there has been no silage made so far.

He says his personal situation is that the amount of silage is down by 80%.

Mr Talbot says many people are unaware of how critical the situation is.