Courier Mail, The (Brisbane), 17/12/2002, pg. 2

WINTER grain harvests on the Darling Downs are down 70 per cent, to the lowest tonnages since the 1994 drought.

But for those lucky enough to harvest a crop, prices have been at record highs.

Pampas graingrower Lyndon Pfeffer managed only a tenth of his usual wheat harvest but counts himself fortunate.

“Further north of us, they couldn’t plant a winter crop at all,” he said.

He usually harvests 1000 tonnes of wheat; but with empty dams and limited bore water he could plant only 25ha of wheat at his property, Bungaree, 70km southwest of Toowoomba.

“Only 25 per cent of our cropping area went in. We picked up some rain in September and got three tonnes to the hectare with the barley and four and a half tonnes per hectare with the wheat. We harvested 350 tonnes of wheat, chick peas and barley compared with 1250 tonnes last year.”

The property between the Condamine River and its north branch has been struggling, with the dam dry since February and bores running low.

Grain shortages forced prices to record levels and Mr Pfeffer received $270 a tonne for wheat, 326 a tonne for barley and $510 a tonne for chick peas.

“They are the highest prices I’ve received. I made a little profit which will see us through until the summer crop comes in next April,” he said.

“We just have to stop spending. We will have to extend the overdraft, and hopefully next season will be a better one.”

But he is concerned about summer crop planting, with no irrigation water from the Leslie Dam, near Warwick, since June.

“Everybody is relying on bores, and they will start to run low unless we get rain this summer to recharge the underground aquifers.”

Copyright 2002 / Courier Mail