Drought (1902)

Droughts are a feature of Australian life as Australia is the driest of all the inhabited continents. Possibly the worst ever drought in Australia since European settlement occurred between 1895 and 1903, with the worst year in many areas being 1902. All parts of New South Wales were especially badly affected. The state had its lowest ever yield of wheat – 3.28 bushels. In Queensland, sugar production suffered, and sheep and cattle numbers dropped dramatically. In northern Victoria the average wheat yield was 1.29 bushels – the lowest on record. The drought killed half of the sheep in Australia, and the number of cattle was reduced by 40%. Many farmers and graziers lost everything; some simply walked away from their properties, unable to pay their debts once the dry topsoil had blown away and their animals had all died. A plague of rabbits, economic depression and some crippling labour strikes all added to the serious effects of the drought. Despite such disasters, Australian farmers continued to find ways to farm this ancient land, and to feed not only Australians, but also to export food overseas.

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