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A truck stirs up dust on a road behind a dam on farmer May McKeown's drought-affected property located on the outskirts of the northwestern New South Wales town of Walgett in Australia, July 19, 2018. Picture taken July 19, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray

(reuters_tickers)

By Will Ziebell

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia on Sunday announced a A$190 million ($140.56 million) aid package for drought-afflicted farmers as much of east coast suffers the worst dry spell in living memory.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the funding from a farm in the state of New South Wales which will give farmers in need lump sum payments and support mental health initiatives and community groups.

"These are very exceptional circumstances and it's important that we react and respond with the support that farmers need," Turnbull told reporters.

The National Farmers' Federation welcomed the news.

"It's vital that we help farmers and families that are dealing with the stress and pressures drought brings," president Fiona Simson said in a statement.

The announcement brings the government's total drought relief package to $576 million. The state government of New South Wales has also provided more than A$1 billion in assistance for farmers.

The dry spell, which shows no sign of ending, has left 99 percent of New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, in drought, according to the Department of Primary Industries.

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Reuters