Agriculture industry leaders meet as concern grows over drought-like conditions

Agricultural industry leaders have met to discuss the worsening dry conditions across some parts of the country, as they start to take their toll on farmers and growers.

Soil moisture levels are continuing to plummet and no significant rain is forecast. 

The Waikato Primary Industry Adverse Event Cluster core group met on Tuesday to review the situation and how farmers are coping.

The group includes representatives from Waikato and Auckland Civil Defence Emergency Management, the Ministry for Primary Industries, Rural Support Trust, Federated Farmers, DairyNZ, Rural Women New Zealand, Beef + Lamb and Pukekohe Vegetable Growers Association.

"Drought-like conditions have been a feature of Waikato farming in recent summers, so it's good to see farmers are generally well-prepared," said Ohinewai farmer and group chairperson, Neil Bateup.

He said while farmers were used to handling dry conditions, there was a concern that no rain was forecast.

"There is plenty of supplementary feed about for stock at present following a good spring and farmers generally are reported to be coping. The crunch time for many is the next two-three weeks.

"It isn't an easy time for our cropping farmers, though - I've heard from some that turnips look like radishes and maize in some areas of the Waikato is starting to wilt," said Bateup.

The group reported that milk production was generally down compared to the same time last year. 

Meanwhile, the forestry sector is also concerned that plantings late last year might not survive the summer due to the small root base if there isn't significant rain.

As a result of the dry conditions, river and stream levels around the region are also getting low.

So far this month many parts of the Waikato region - in particular the north Waikato, Hauraki Plains and Coromandel Peninsula - as well as South Auckland, have only had a few millimetres of rain.

"With no significant rain forecast for the region in the near future, we want to reassure Waikato farmers that we've got this situation on our radar and we're looking out for them."

The core group is due to meet again in two weeks.