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Rain brings relief to farmers in Australia

Sydney

WIDESPREAD rain fell across drought-affected parts of eastern Australia over the weekend, bringing relief to farmers struggling to cope with the driest conditions in more than half a century.

Graziers have had to hand-feed sheep and cattle, sell down stock - and in some cases even shoot them to end their suffering - as they run out of hay and grain in the severe conditions affecting Queensland and New South Wales states.

The wet weather was the first farmers in some areas had seen for more than a year, and even included hail. But locals cautioned the ground had become so dry in recent months that more downpours over the next few weeks and months would be needed to make a difference.

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"Those rains will be far from drought breaking," National Farmers' Federation president Fiona Simson told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Sunday. "What we need is 20 (millimetres) next week on 20 the next week, 20 the next week, and... (in the) next few months... to aptly build up those depleted soil and moisture reserves in the soil."

The respite came as new Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would make addressing the drought the top priority of his government. "It was pleasing to see the report on the rain yesterday in the last 24 hours," Mr Morrison told ABC radio early Sunday. "That is encouraging, but we know that is nowhere near what is obviously needed." AFP