Some 92 percent of NSW remains drought-declared with some districts receiving no rain since before the Sydney Olympics.
The entire interior of Australia is in its worst drought in over 200 years. The government has over 40,000 farms receiving some form of drought relief or emergency assistance.
It is expected that many regions will suffer their second consecutive winter crop failure if rains do not fall in the coming weeks.
The number of farm families receiving federal drought aid has risen 30 percent in the last month from 3,894 in April to 5,158 in May.
In addition more than 7,000 farm families are also now receiving interim federal income assistance. Canberra has now paid more than A$113 million to farmers affected. Farmers receiving the assistance will be eligible for support for two years.
The government has a Federal Farm Management Deposit program. This allows farmers to make tax-deductible savings during the good years. In December alone, there were deposits of A$34.9 million and withdrawals of A$50.7 million.
In addition, significant withdrawals are expected through June 2003. The deposits came from areas of Australia not affected by the drought. Producers in 89 shires [counties] and more than 320 properties in another 18 shires in Queensland are now drought-declared and eligible to apply for state assistance.