The Courier-Mail

Rain and drought lift debt

- JACK MCKAY Business · Agriculture · Drought · Industries · Natural Disasters · Disasters

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.

 ??  ?? Dairy farmer David Tom­merup with one of his cows at Kerry in the Scenic Rim. Pic­ture: Liam Kid­ston
Dairy farmer David Tom­merup with one of his cows at Kerry in the Scenic Rim. Pic­ture: Liam Kid­ston

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