Frost impacts in Western Victoria 'like a bushfire', says Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford

DAMAGE: Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford inspects frost-damaged wheat with growers Bruce McKay and Andrew Laidlaw at their Ararat property. Picture: ANDREW MILLER
DAMAGE: Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford inspects frost-damaged wheat with growers Bruce McKay and Andrew Laidlaw at their Ararat property. Picture: ANDREW MILLER

GROWERS are likening last month’s snap frost, which caused significant crop losses in Western Victoria, to the impacts of a bushfire. 

Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford have met with growers at an Ararat cropping and sheep property.

“This has been shocking and dramatic for people,” Ms Pulford said.

“People have described as almost being like a bushfire impact – in terms of one situation one day and something very different the next, that struck in quite a random way.

 “The fact is nobody really knows how significant this has been, and none of us will, until harvest.

“It’s tough for people because it happened, without warning, at a point where people were feeling really optimistic about the season.

“It’s been a bitter pill for people to swallow.”

Ararat grower Andrew Laidlaw said the full impact of the frost would only be fully felt in about six months.

Mr Laidlaw, who farms just south of the town with his father Geoff, said he anticipated crop losses of up to 50 per cent at an estimated value of more than $600,000 – mainly in cereals.

“To lose it that late was pretty brutal and especially after such a good season. A lot of investment has gone into these crops,” Mr Laidlaw said.

He said the real impact might only be felt in autumn and early winter next year.

“I think, come May or June next year, when everyone is trying to put their crop in again, and having to go back for extra finance … that will be when the pinch is on,” Mr Laidlaw said.

“Unlike 2006, which was severe drought, we stopped investing money into the crops long before we had that outcome.”

He said unlike 2006, this year’s hay would have little value.

“In 2006 hay was worth something. The dairy regions were in drought as well, so things still turned over that year,” he said. 

“We invested a lot more into the crops this year and to have that gone, losses are far greater than the drought in 2006.

“We remain hopeful we might still get a tonne to the hectare, but you never know. That’s the hardest thing – the unknown.”

Ararat councillor Jo Armstrong, a farmer at Yalla-Y-Poora, said she had lost some wheat crops to the frost.

“One of the concerns I have is the stressors of mental health across the community and the effect on families and the effect it is going to have throughout the whole supply chain,” Cr Armstrong said.

“All of our uni students and tertiary students who come back to home to farms to work for summer … their opportunity to earn is diminished.”

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