Canegrowers chief says growers' debt 'viable'
THE average borrower in the sugar cane industry is in debt to the tune of $560,000, a new report has revealed.
The QRAA Rural Debt Survey has shown the average debt per borrower across all industries in Queensland has grown to $1.07 million – a 17 per cent rise from 2009.
The biennial report shows the Tropical North Coast region makes up 12.1 per cent of Queensland’s rural debt, owing $2.06 billion.
Despite the rise in debt levels, the report found 95 per cent of borrowers are considered viable in the long term.
Canegrowers chief executive officer Steve Greenwood said the sugar cane industry, which accounts for 5.7 per cent of total debt, was in fair shape.
He said while debt increased, fewer farmers were borrowing money.
“The overall total debt is probably not surprising given we’ve had these significant natural disasters in Far North Queensland,” he said.
“Where the overall level of income from people was reduced to survive they’ve had to increase their borrowing, so it hasn’t been surprising.”
“By in large the level of debt by sugar industry borrowers is about half that of others,” he said.
But Mr Greenwood said there was such a thing as positive debt.
“People go into debt to grow their business and it can show increasing growth so that’s positive debt,” he said.
“I think the outlook is quite bright, prices are quite solid and the industry is in a growth phase.”
The Queensland Farmers Federation said the report reflected the difficulties facing the state’s farmers.
“Coming out of drought straight into monsoonal natural disasters, it is not surprising that there has been limited opportunity to reduce debt for some industries,” QFF chief executive officer Dan Gilligan said.
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