Roundtable hears firsthand of worsening drought

Senior bank representatives have
today heard firsthand of worsening drought conditions from farmers affected at
a roundtable convened by AgForce Queensland.

The roundtable, held at the
request of AgForce just outside Toowoomba in Nobby, brought together senior
banking representatives responsible for agricultural lending as well as local
farmers and community groups.

CEO of the Australian Banking
Association Anna Bligh said that as drought conditions worsen in some areas of
the country it was important for banks to listen closely to communities
affected and step in to provide support where needed.

“Australian banks stand shoulder
to shoulder with local communities affected by this devastating drought and
have for many years been providing a wide range of assistance,” Ms Bligh said.

“The first step for any customer
affected by this drought is to contact their bank’s hardship teams who are
ready to help.

“It’s important as conditions
continue to worsen that banks listen to local drought affected communities to understand
how best to support people through these awful times.

“Today we brought together
senior executives at banks in charge of agri-lending, AgForce Queensland, local
farmers and community groups to listen to communities and reassure them that
banks are here to assist where needed,” she said.

AgForce General President
Georgie Somerset commended the Australian banking sector for their commitment
to understanding the long-term on-the-ground impacts of drought on farming
families and considering with an open mind how they can better support affected
producers.

“Banks are a vital partner in
any farm business. We can only grow food and fibre because of their ongoing
investment and faith in us as producers,” Mrs Somerset said.

“However, it’s no secret that
farmers are doing it tough out there. The drought is really hurting us and many
producers have had their backs hard to the wall financially, physical and
emotionally for several years.

“We appreciate the genuine
concern and interest being shown by the banks in meeting with us to talk about
how they can do things differently, in terms of assessing a farm’s business
risk, debt serviceability, and commercial viability and determining what is an
acceptable return on investment for them,” she said.

Assistance already on offer from
banks for drought affected communities include:

  • A deferral of scheduled loan repayments
  • Debt consolidation to help make repayments more
    manageable
  • Restructuring existing loans free of the usual
    establishment fees
  • Deferring interest payments on a case-by-case basis
  • Offering additional finance to help cover cash flow
    shortages
  • Deferring upcoming credit card payments
  • Increasing emergency credit card limits
  • Waiving early termination fees for customers who
    wish to access their term deposits.

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