Australia's Queensland hit by record drought

File photo of cows in Australia Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Some farmers struggling because of the drought have started selling their cattle

Australia's Queensland is suffering its most widespread drought on record, with almost 80% of the state now included in the list of affected areas.

Queensland received little rain in February, which is normally the wettest month of the year, local officials say.

This contrasts to three years ago, when much of the state was flooded, forcing thousands to evacuate from their homes.

PM Tony Abbott last month approved an emergency drought relief package worth A$320m ($286m; £171m).

The package will also benefit farmers in New South Wales, who have also been experiencing drought for the past two years.

State Agriculture Minister John McVeigh said he was expecting Queensland to receive a large part of funding.

"Queensland is a big state and there is usually drought somewhere, but this is the largest area of Queensland that has ever been drought-declared at one time," he said.

Only a narrow strip of coastline had received any significant rainfall in Queensland, he added.

Mal Forman, mayor of Bundaberg, one of the affected areas, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: "Many of our farmers are hurting and struggling and we do need rain and assistance badly... I think it [the declaration] will help from an emotional perspective firstly."

The drought is projected to adversely affect profits of livestock producers and contribute to a decline in farm production.

Of the government's package, at least A$280m is allocated for loans to assist eligible farm businesses to recover from the drought.

There is also an extra A$12m for emergency water infrastructure schemes.

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