Oz beer hit by drought

Beer prices in Australia could soar following months of drought, officials in New South Wales have warned.

Ian Macdonald, the state government's Minister for Primary Industries, said the ongoing lack of rainfall in the south-eastern state was threatening winter crops of wheat and barley.

Nearly 79% of the state is now in drought conditions - up from 71% in September - with a further 12.1% said to be marginal.

Mr Macdonald said: "We could see everything from bread to beer made in New South Wales cost a little more as Christmas approaches.

"Meat, eggs and milk could all cost a little bit more too as the drought refuses to release its grip.

"The worst case scenario for beer drinkers is that beer brewed in New South Wales will be made from malting barley grown in southern or western Australia.

"I don't expect us to taste much of a difference, however it would be nice to know that you are drinking a beer over Christmas that has helped our state's farmers."

Mr Macdonald said the state government had committed more than $335m to assist farmers during the drought.

But he warned that the situation was expected to worsen in the coming months if rainfall continued to be low.

He added: "Production estimates for winter crops have continued to fall as lack of rain, above average temperatures and drying winds decimate winter cereal, oilseed and pulse crops.

"The current production estimates stand at around 3.75m tonnes, with more heavy losses expected in coming weeks if no decent rain is received."

This week, the Australian Government's Bureau of Meteorology issued a number of severe weather warnings in New South Wales.

Forecasters said several regions were at risk from bush fires as a result of the dry conditions.

Kate Martin




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