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Farmers counting the cost of heavy rainfall

By Selina Bryan, Thursday October 3, 2013 - 22:03 EST
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Farmers are waiting for pastures to dry out before planting potatoes, peas and onions. - ABC

While the stormy conditions may have eased, Tasmanian farmers could be facing big losses after a wet winter and spring.

Farmers are describing the past few months as the wettest in many years, disrupting crop sowing, playing havoc with infrastructure and machinery and causing stock losses.

Vegetable grower Max Baker says potatoes, peas and onions are due to be planted this month but paddocks need to dry out before that can happen.

"You just can't get onto the paddocks to do anything, you no sooner get it a little bit dry and you think you may go next week and then all of a sudden you get another 40, 50 millimetres."

The persistent rain has drowned poppy crops already planted and left paddocks too wet to put more in.

Glynn Williams from the Poppy Growers Association says the losses could be in the tens of millions of dollars.

"Some people are facing the prospect of not growing poppies at all this year because their farms are simply too wet," he said.

Planting extension possible

Poppy planting usually stops on the 15th of this month but the excessive wet weather has allowed some flexibility.

The pharmaceutical companies licensed to grow poppies on Tasmanian farmers will assess paddocks on a case-by-case basis and grant some farmers a couple of extra weeks to plant.

Mr Williams says even with the the extensions, losses could still be substantial.

"Poppies are a variable crop, we all know that, but the fact is in Tasmanian agriculture at this time profit margins have been so hammered by the ruthless supply chains that we just can't afford to miss a crop and we can't afford to fail, this is going to severely challenge a lot of people.

Wayne Johnston from the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association says animals are also affected.

"We didn't have much dry ground to put our ewes on to lamb so losses on our lambs were up more than what we would have liked."

Farmers are hoping for warm and windy conditions over the next couple of weeks so waterlogged paddocks can dry out.


- ABC

© ABC 2013

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