Businesses left struggling by the live export suspension to Indonesia will have access to interest rate subsidies for loans of up to $300,000 under an expanded Federal Government assistance package released today.
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig said the new measures will give individuals and businesses access to working capital via a subsidised interest rate on loans of up to $300,000, as well as grants of up $5500 for financial advice.
“While the trade to Indonesia has reopened, with the first shipment of cattle due to depart this week, I know businesses in the north are still feeling the impacts and will need additional support as the trade re-establishes,” Mr Ludwig said.
“When these measures are combined with the assistance packages that are already available, there is almost $100 million that is able to be injected into the market.
“This next phase of support is targeted at businesses and support industries that rely on the live export trade to Indonesia.
“I’m pleased to announce that in partnership with the state and territory governments we will offer a subsidised interest rate on new loans of up to $300,000 for two years to farm and service industry businesses like transporters, heli-musterers and agents involved in the live export trade.”
Business owners will be able to apply to their state or territory government to assess their eligibility for the subsidy, before approaching their preferred financier for new working capital facilities.
Loans approved since 7 June 2011 may also be eligible for the subsidy on interest.
Applications will be open for six months.
Mr Ludwig said in a press release issued today that applicants should note that a financier’s decision on new lending is a completely separate commercial process, and meeting the requirements for the subsidy will not guarantee that an application for new lending will be approved.
“Clearly, banks and other commercial lenders are best placed to make those decisions in consultation with the business owner.”
In addition, grants of up to $5,500 will be made available to pastoralists for financial advice and training.
Cattle producers will be able use this grant for advice they receive from their financial adviser, bank manager or accountant to make management decisions on business costs like feed, hay covers, transport and repairs and maintenance.
The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) says the new measures will provide welcome relief for farmers and small businesses struggling in the wake of the livestock export suspension.
“Today’s announcement brings the total amount of funds available for cattle producers to almost $100 million, which will go a long way to help those farmers and families who rely on this trade for their livelihoods – the producers, truck drivers, contractors, small businesses and many Indigenous Australians,” NFF president Jock Laurie said.
Mr Laurie said the first shipment from Australia to Indonesia today under new export conditions represented an important first step for cattle producers, exporters and businesses that rely on the trade.
“It will be a slow process to recovery, but ensuring the trade can continue by working with Government to improve animal welfare standards is of the utmost importance to the industry,” Mr Laurie said.
“Australian farmers do not condone animal cruelty: it simply has no place in our farming systems.
“With the Minister for Agriculture, we have developed a controlled supply chain system that ensures Australian animals exported to Indonesia only go to those abattoirs that meet internationally agreed standards – and we are working to implement similar systems in all other livestock export markets.
“We support the decision by Minister Ludwig to await the results of the Farmer review. This is the only way the Government can improve animal welfare outcomes in destinations for Australian animals without undermining the social fabric of northern Australia and negatively affecting people's lives.
“The livestock export industry is incredibly important to the people of northern Australia. Importantly, stopping the trade will not resolve the animal welfare issues as it will simply offload them onto another country. But it will devastate these communities,” Mr Laurie said.
Interested individuals or businesses who wish to apply or receiving more information about the package should register their details with Centrelink by calling 1800 808 869.