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Whan blasted for “sneaky” Moree visit

INDEPENDENT MP for Barwon, Kevin Humphries, has slammed the NSW Government for “sneaking into” country towns to visit without letting relevant officials know, as Primary Industries Minister Steve Whan and Premier Kristina Keneally hit the election trail.

Mr Whan announced a belated $6 million to clean up an asbestos mine at Barraba while Ms Keneally announced a $10 million emergency unit at Maitland Hospital.

Mr Humphries said it was unacceptable for the Primary Industries Minister to land in Moree during a time of natural disaster without letting anyone know.

“Apparently common courtesy is a thing of the past,” Mr Humphries said.

“This is the second time that Mr Whan has arrived unannounced without communicating with the locals, which is simply unacceptable, especially during such a hard time.”

He said Moree Council had no idea about the visit, which was “nothing but a last minute press junket tour, with no real value for the local community”.

Touring Moree, Mr Whan said ruined and downgraded winter crops across NSW have slashed the value of the 2010 harvest by at least $850 million.

“Industry and Investment NSW estimates that almost half the 2.8 million hectare wheat crop was downgraded to feed quality because of weather damage caused by rain and flooding,” Mr Whan said.

“And in some places harvest is stalled because paddocks are still too wet. But the good news is feed grain prices are holding up. As a result many crops have been salvaged.

“The estimated average wheat yield across NSW is 3.13 tonnes a hectare producing 8.8 million tonnes state-wide. This compares to 2009 when 2.77 million hectares were harvested yielding about 4.43 million tonnes.

“A significant proportion of barley and oats are also being downgraded.”

Pulse crops have suffered from the wet too, with wet conditions causing increased disease, crop lodging and shot-and-sprung grain in chickpea, faba bean, field pea and lupin crops.

“It appears that lupin crops have tolerated the wet conditions better than other pulse crops in terms of yield and grain quality,” he said.

“Despite wet conditions disrupting summer crop sowing, Industry and Investment NSW forecasts more than 600,000 hectares is sown, excluding rice, which is well up on the estimated 240,000 ha harvested last season.

“More typical summer weather has followed a very wet December across many parts of the State,” he said.

“Sorghum sowings of 164,000 ha are down on earlier forecasts as a result of paddocks staying too wet to sow.

“Mungbean and sunflower plantings will continue until the end of January,” he said.

“The wet and humid summer has also led to an increase in insect pressure on summer crops, leading to significantly higher production costs.”

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