LAST HOPE: After more than 100 years of the Mungall family farming on the Granite Belt, this may be the last season for fifth generation Ian Mungall.
LAST HOPE: After more than 100 years of the Mungall family farming on the Granite Belt, this may be the last season for fifth generation Ian Mungall. Liana Walker

'I didn't have anything to lose': Farmer's desperate ad

THE ad in the Border Post read '$5000 per Mega Litre' - around five times what most farmers are offering to buywater.

But for Ian Mungall it's worth it to see to the end of his season at Red Jewel strawberry runners in the Ballandean area.

The crop is down to 50 per cent production, with the ground too hot for the runners to peg into.

He's already told his buyers in the Sunshine Coast region he won't be able to fill their order. The situation is similar for many strawberry runner growers around the nation, meaning it will likely be another tough season for strawberry growers.

"We're trying to get the plants to grow normally with too much heat, too much dry, too much evaporation, poor quality water and the plants not performing,” Mr Mungall said.

"There's probably going to be a shortfall in the industry. Maybe 10 to 15 per cent of plastic won't get planted.

"We've got the perfect storm, after the debacle in the strawberry industry with the needles and those guys got hit hard, we've had a poor season because of weather and heat and shortage of water, even growers up the coast are short on water.

"It's going to be a really challenging six months ahead of us.”

Mr Mungall takes orders six months in advance and this time last year he would not have predicted such a hot summer.

Right now he just wants enough water to see his crop through to the next three weeks to start harvesting.

He is hoping by offering such a high premium for water there may be someone around the area who is willing to sell.

"I didn't have anything to lose,” he said.

"I'm not optimistic about getting a phone call to say 'I've got water,' but it's worth a shot.

"I think nearly every grower in the Ballandean region is carting in water. There's about 23 water tankers running around the district carting water which has never been seen before.”

He's currently carting water from another property he owns in Ballandean, but that water is going down to its last drop.

The situation at his farm is so dire, Mr Mungall is seriously considering leaving if there isn't any rain by September.

"We'll probably be forced to close this operation down and relocate our operation to a better growing area.

"We're not even sure if there's going to be a season next year.”

But the decision doesn't come easy. The Mungall family were one of the pioneering families of the region and on that very property on Emu Swamp Rd some of the first fruit trees were planted in the 1870s.

He's a fifth generation farmer and has children of his own to consider.

"Farming in this district has always been a challenge. It's probably one of the most difficult areas to farm in because of the soil type and the lack of water storage.

"It gets to the point where you go, 'you know what? we're better off going somewhere else.'” All he can do is pray for rain.

"We need an extreme event to fix this.”

"If the (Emu Swamp) Dam was built, I don't think any of us would be having this conversation.”

Stanthorpe Border Post

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