Rain and drought lift debt
RURAL debt has surged to more than $19bn, as Queensland farmers continue to battle drought and rebuild from the 2019 monsoon.
New figures compiled for the Queensland Rural Debt Survey reveal the average debt per borrower in rural Queensland has shot to $1.05m – up 11.3 per cent from 2017.
Total rural debt in Queensland has also increased by a massive 10.75 per cent since 2017 and is now sitting at $19.1bn.
RURAL debt has surged to more than $19bn, as Queensland farmers battle ongoing drought and rebuild from the devastating 2019 monsoon.
New figures compiled for the Queensland Rural Debt Survey reveal the average debt per borrower in rural Queensland has shot to $1m – up 11.3 per cent from 2017. Total rural debt in Queensland has risen by a massive 10.75 per cent since 2017 and is now at $19.1bn.
Beef farmers are among those struggling the most, with the total beef debt rising by $1.3bn over the past two years to $10.6bn and the average beef debt hitting $1.4m.
According to the report, compiled by the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA), the Western Downs and Central Highlands region owes the most, carrying about 33 per cent of the state’s entire rural debt.
Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said the debt increase reflected the “very challenging circumstances” rural businesses had faced in the past two years, including the ongoing drought and the historic 2019 monsoon trough.
He said the government had already invested more than $745m in drought-affected industries and communities, including subsidies for affected primary producers and emergency water infrastructure rebates.
“Another $74.6m was allocated over four years in the 2019-20 budget to continue the Drought Assistance Package and there’s an additional $100m for concessional loans to primary producers,” he said. “The Palaszczuk Government also introduced the Farm Business Debt Mediation Program and the Farm Debt Restructure Office to help farm businesses that are struggling financially.”
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said the report was another stark reminder that the state’s farmers were doing it tough. “They need more help to produce the locally grown food and fibre Queensland needs,” she said. “Now more than ever we should be backing our farmers to create a decade of secure jobs and grow the food and fibre we need to be selfsufficient and boost exports.”
The grain industry has the second-highest rural debt, owing about $1.28bn.
Scenic Rim dairy farmer Kay Tommerup, 43, said her family was still suffering from the drought. “Everything we’ve gone through with COVID has been nothing in comparison with what happened to us through the droughts,” Ms Tommerup said. She has been forced to sell more than half her stock, now down to only 20 cows.