Australian food-bowl drought worsens

The record drought gripping Australia's main food-growing region, the Murray-Darling river system, has worsened. Water inflows were at an all-time low over the past two years, Reuters reported a top water official as saying.

The drought will hit irrigated crops such as rice, grapes and horticulture the hardest, the report said. The rainfall is sufficient to support hopes for a strong wheat harvest, but not enough to replenish ground water, which troubles those farmers who grow fruit rather than grain.

The drought was the worst in 117 years of record-keeping, it added, with 80% of eucalyptus trees dead or stressed in the region. "It seems to me from what we’ve seen to date, there’s no indication that it’s going to end in the immediate future," Wendy Craik, of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, was quoted as saying.

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