Drought will rob Hawke’s Bay of $50-million
Drought in Hawke’s Bay will rob the province of at least $50-million
And the huge financial loss will not just affect the farming community, warns the chairman of the federated Farmers’ meat and wool section, Mr Dave Peterson.
“A drop of income of this magnitude to the farming industry will have its effects felt right through the business community in Hawke’s Bay,” Mr Petersen said.
He said the only way the province’s loss would fall under the $50-million mark would be if something “very dramatic happens in the near future.”
The drought and the announcement by the weather office that there would not be substantial rain until after May has prompted industry leaders to label the “big dry” as a disaster.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries senior farm advisory officer, Mr Bill Crawford, said today the drought would hit the lambing percentages hard, with a drop of at least 15 per cent on average.
He said some farmers would have their percentages cut by five percent while critically affected farms would have their stock losing 40 per cent of lambing.
It was reasonably optimistic to estimate a 10 per cent drop in meat and wool production, Mr Crawford said, and the drop in profitability would mean a loss ranging from 10 per cent on last year’s net profit for farmers.
That loss would not only come through loss of production, but the cost of grazing and supplementary feeding, he said.
Mr Petersen said the drop in meat and wool production meant a loss of between $17.5-million and $26.5-million.
Although it was difficult to estimate extra costs, Mr Petersen put them at $10-million at least. That covered grazing costs, feed, stock losses, tooth wear and the resulting shortened life of breeding stock.
But Mr Petersen said the major cost of restocking farms had to be included because farmers had had to sell stock for low prices, and will be forced to buy later for very high prices.
Mr Petersen said his estimates were probably conservative and the losses would be felt mainly in the next financial year.
He said the average loss to each farmer in Hawke’s Bay would be about $25,000 from the gross income.
Mr Petersen said the province was desperate for substantial rain now or the grass would not bounce back.
He said in a lot of places pastures were just dirt and ewes were losing condition instead of gaining it for the breeding season.
“If there is no rain in the next month, it will be a disaster. Financially it is a disaster already,” he said.
Mr Petersen said farmers’ ability to hold on and their management skills, would save them further losses.
And although he accepts redundant sheep must be sold, and farmers are being forced into culling their capital stock, he said farmers who were selling cows were making a massive blunder.
He said the beef market was reviving, and it had a brighter future than mutton.
The Meat Board electoral committee was told yesterday that Hawke’s Bay had only 18 per cent of the normal December to February rainfall.
A look at the rainfall figures for Hastings, Napier, Dannevirke and Waipukurau for the last eight months and the corresponding months in the previous summer reveal a substantial shortfall.
The major drop was in August when the rainfall in the Napier-Hastings area was only six per cent of the previous year.
The lack of spring rain meant the grass did not grow in time for the summer, and little or no rain in the following months compounded the problem.
In Hastings, no rain fell in August, compared with 36mm the previous year. November had half of the previous rainfall, December had 16 per cent, January had 70 per cent, February 40 per cent and March has had only 12 per cent of the rain that fell last March.
In the last eight months, 109mm of rain has fallen in Hastings, down on 451mm the previous year.
Napier’s rainfall has come down from 509mm to134mm, Waipukurau’s is back from 565mm to140mm, and Dannevirke’s has come down from 556mm to 373.9mm.
The rainfall figures have even more impact when it is realised that last year’s summer and autumn was considered very dry at the time.
The total rainfall for 1982 was only 480cm compared with a 30-year average of 777mm.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries economist in Hastings, Mr John King, said a lot of farms are in a critical feeding situation as a result of the drought.
Mr King said expensive supplementary feed was being fed to cattle and sheep to enable farmers to hold on to their capital stock.
In Mr King’s initial March analysis of farming in Hawke’s Bay he said the drought was having an effect on the banking system, overdrafts, stock firms, and the Rural Bank, which is likely to be flooded with applications for special seasonal loans.
The vice-president of Federated Farmer in Hawke’s Bay, Mr John Reynolds, said if there is no rain soon the disastrous effects of the drought would be felt for years to come.
He said a survey taken on Department of Statistics figures in 1979 put Hawke’s Bay agricultural exports at a value of $480-million, and he estimated between 10 and 20 per cent of that would be lost this year.
He said the long-term effect of killing or selling capital stock would take years to overcome.
Other drought reports page 3.