Murray farmers are all being rooned
HANRAHAN is not so funny these days: farmers in the Murray Irrigation Area are being squeezed by a threepronged instrument of torture that threatens their survival.
Drought is the central prong. There has been no winter rain and water allocations are at zero.
Winter crops failed, have been cut for hay or ploughed under, with any seed grown being kept for next year’s imagined sowing.
The second prong is the fact that water allocations are being sold permanently, usually to towns, which kills the future of farming in the area.
The third prong is the high cost of feed caused both by the drought and by the demands of ethanol producers.
Valuer Kerry Herron of Herron Todd White says: ‘‘ These are desperate times down south with high security water being sold permanently for up to $ 4000/ megalitre, to be lost forever to rural production.
‘‘ Many others are selling their water entitlements ( the few that still have any water at all, that is), and in a number of cases this is having an alarming snowball effect on rural towns, with business closures and farm foreclosures.’’
He says property values are holding firm in some aeas, but generally they are drifting down, with sales volumes drying up with the weather.
‘‘ It’s starting to bite,’’ says David Shuter, the valuer’s director for southern NSW and northern Victoria.
‘‘ We got some good rain in late October but it was too late: the crops had already failed or been cut for hay. ‘‘ At least hay is selling well — $ 420 a tonne compared with the usual $ 250-$ 300 — but that doesn’t help farmers who have to buy feed.’’
The area has had one recent mortgagee- in- possession sale.
The property is near Deniliquin and attracted some bids but at levels half of those the place would have got four years ago. It didn’t sell.
‘‘ Most sales in the district are occurring under some pressure, but not yet generally by the lender. But values are falling,’’ Shuter says.
An example, he says, is ‘‘ Wyeamba’’, a 4000- acre farm north of Albury which has just sold for $ 1050/ acre. Three years ago it would have brought $ 1400-$ 1500/ acre. Citrus trees and and vines are dying or being cut to the ground in the hope they will recover after a dormant period.
The Corowa piggery, the town’s biggest employer, is under threat because it cannot get enough water and the effect on the town will be substantial. Things are crook indeed.
Luck’s run out: The skeletal remains