A WAVE of forced farm sales across Queensland and northern NSW as banks look to recover debts after the severe drought has prompted calls for the banking sector to “back off”.
Queensland Agriculture Minister John McVeigh said the major rural lending banks had assured him they were not more aggressively sending receivers and managers into troubled farm businesses, now that it had rained in many regions. But local evidence suggests otherwise.
As reported by The Weekend Australian, the ANZ Bank last month appointed receivers KordaMentha to take over management and the sale of five farms belonging to one of Queensland’s biggest grain farmers, Rowell Walton, after his outstanding debt reached $30 million, more than the value of his farms, after land prices fell.
Suncorp has also moved in to claim four nearby cropping farms at Surat and Tara belonging to another large graingrower, Selywn Murphy. He has left his home while his properties — including well-known 1150ha “Howqua” at The Gums — are being sold at auction by receivers Deloitte on May 22 in Dalby.
A number of other Queensland cattle and cropping farms are under severe financial pressure from a variety of banks, including NAB, Rabobank and ANZ, which took over the former Landmark lending portfolio two years ago. But Mr McVeigh said overly free lending by the banks in the years between 2007 and 2012, before the past two-year drought hit, had played a role in the current debt and credit squeeze hitting farmers.
“ I now encourage (the banks) to stick with producers through these tough times,” Mr McVeigh said.
“The banks need to remember, and the farmer too, that these are long term relationships in which both (parties) have a responsibility.”
David Williams of investment bank Kidder Williams believes it is time for the major banks to “back off” farmers and allow them to recover since a good cyclical “bounce” is coming.
“It has now rained, people are restocking and the pendulum will swing back in farmers’ favour.”Author : SUE NEALES Source : The Australian