Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Government officials declared a drought Wednesday throughout all of the Australian state of New South Wales after the driest start to a year in five decades.
The entire state is now in drought, according to the latest seasonal update, Department of Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair confirmed in a news release Wednesday that Sydney radio station 873AM posted to Twitter. Sixty-one percent of New South Wales is in either drought or intense drought, and nearly 39 percent is considered drought-affected, Department of Primary Industries maps show.
This year's rainfall in the state has been the lowest total since 1965, Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said.
"This is tough," Blair said. "There isn't a person in the state that isn't hoping to see some rain for our farmers and regional communities."
In the last month, the state has seen less than half an inch of rain. On July 30, the New South Wales government announced a $740.6 million aid package to help farmers through the drought.
Further deterioration in soil water availability prompted the drought declaration Wednesday, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
"Both soil moisture and plant growth across the state continue to be below average to extremely low, across the state," Blair told the newspaper. "Some areas of the state did receive some welcome rainfall this month that has provided a little relief for stock and domestic water," he added. "Unfortunately, though, it will not even come close to the recovery needed for most farmers."
The Bureau of Meteorology's outlook for the next few months shows below-average rainfall and hotter temperatures than normal, which will likely exacerbate the drought.
"Producers are now faced with some very difficult decisions on whether to graze sown crops or rely on potential rainfall in the next two months in order to increase yield production," Blair said.