Jambin farmer Paul Heit relying on the chickpea crop to get through the dry season.
Jambin farmer Paul Heit relying on the chickpea crop to get through the dry season. Kristen Booth

Weather takes a toll

DRYLAND farmers are feeling the heat, with yields this season less than half of what they were last year.

Paul Heit is a third-generation grain farmer just out of Jambin and said this season, things are looking grim.

"Things are very dry here,” he said.

"We've had no in crop rain, or that you could call rain; we've had probably 20ml since May until now.”

Mr Heit works the land with his father John, and due to the dry weather, they have only been able to utilise 15 per cent of their land this season for chickpeas and wheat.

"This year here we've only got 15 per cent of the area in that we normally would have,” he said.

"The yield is 400kg to the acre, versus a tonne and a half last year.

"Last year for us here was absolutely phenomenal; we grew a tonne and a half to the acre of wheat here, the prices were reasonable and we tried two new varieties.

"We've had a dramatic decrease. We've had no rain, no follow-up rain and very little stored moisture underneath that country as well.”

Despite the dry conditions, Mr Heit decided to plant the only chickpea crop around the region, and said it looks like it will pull them through.

"We are very lucky here to have this chickpea crop on hand, there could be a bit of handy money this year,” he said.

"We've actually been quite lucky - we had a fairly good strike with the chickpeas.”

However, with the number of reduced yields throughout the entire region, GrainCorp has decided to close a number of silos in Central Queensland, forcing farmers to transport their grains elsewhere.

For chickpea growers, the closest storage will be at Gladstone, with the Biloela, Dingo and Koorngoo sites closed.

Now, on top of land maintenance, Mr Heit will also have to consider the extra cost for transporting the grain.

"With the depots closed, now we have to freight our grain to Gladstone,” he said.

"We have some storage on farm, and other growers don't have grain so we have their facilities we can use.

"Freight these days is not cheap of course. It's not a big cost but it's another cost that you don't really need.”

Even though only 15 per cent of their land is being utilised, they still have to maintain the rest, and Mr Heit said the costs are starting to add up.

"We are still spending money even though it is a drought,” he said.

"It's getting pretty bad actually, we still have to maintain the ground even though we don't have a crop in there.

"It's not looking good, even into next year. There's no stored moisture, no direction of what's going on with everything.

"Things are looking very grim for us, but we have high hopes of course, still waiting for the clouds to roll in.”

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