19 December 2019
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.
For more information, or to find the number for your bank’s hardship team go to www.ausbanking.org.au/doingittough.
Contact: Rory Grant 0475 741 007
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Interviewed by AM’s Peter Ryan, ABA CEO Anna Bligh talked about the substantial drop in loan deferrals since their peak during the pandemic, falling from 900,000 to 300,000.