FIGURES provided by banks did not match claims that hundreds of farms across Queensland are being sold off by receivers to Chinese buyers, and their owners being forcibly evicted because of bad debts, producers attending the Rural Debt Summit in Winton heard on Friday.
Federal agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce denied that the agricultural sector was under so much strain with $66 billion in rural debt nationally that it was in danger of collapse, the Australian newspaper reported.
Mr Joyce said across North Queensland, only 43 loans of 1258 bank rural accounts were in arrears by more than 90 days, and there were just 28 farm families involved in bank talks likely to lead to property sales or forced foreclosures.
He told the Australian that the northwest of NSW was doing it tougher, with bank figures showing 4 percent or 25 of all 630 farm loans in trouble.
Figures released last week by Mr Joyce’s department confirm, however, that many farmers in drought ravaged regions are struggling to pay their loans. The average level of debt increased by 4pc in southwest Queensland as 12pc in northern NSW during the past financial year.
In the Gulf country of Northern Queensland, the number of borrowers who had missed loan repayments for more than 90 days jumped from 1.9pc to 3.4pc in the past year.
Nationally, 3pc of the $66 billion in rural loans made to the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors are in default.
About 200 producers attending Friday’s Winton Summit were earlier told that 48 farm families from the Longreach and Winton districts had been pushed from their stations by banks in the past six months. A further 40 families in the Gulf country, and many more in Central Western Queensland and northern NSW west of Moree and Walgett, were also in the throes of being driven off their holdings, as banks drop farmland values and call in loans they decide won’t be repaid.
In the midst of a one-in-one-hundred year drought, organisers of the Winton event called for an immediate moratorium on all farm foreclosures until it rains. Click here to access the full list of resolutions passed during the meeting.
Katter Australia Party leader and federal member for Kennedy, Bob Katter said the Debt Crisis Summit was unanimous in its determination to seek a reconstruction debt approach to farm debt.
“Farm debt has exploded in nine years from $31 billion to over $64 billion last year,” Mr Katter said.
“To reconstruct the bad end of that debt is achievable by Government and they need to move in immediately in a situation where the banks are foreclosing at a rate of ten properties per week.”
“Banks do not just foreclose, they’re using duress and even misrepresentation to get people to agree to terms without putting them into receivership,” he alleged.
Barnaby Joyce flatly rejected the call for an Australian Reconstruction and Development Board at the Winton meeting, saying he had ‘Buckley’s chance’ of getting it through parliament.
Instead, he urged the crowd of 250 ‘not to scare the horses,’ reporters attending the meeting said.
“The signs ahead for beef prices aren’t signs of collapse,” Mr Joyce said. “We are doing things that will bring real dollars back to people’s pockets.”
Mr Katter said the meeting unanimously rejected the Government’s offer of more debt by way of concessional loans.
Charters Towers mortgagee auction fails to sell
Meanwhile, questions continue to be raised about mortgagees trying to sell grazing properties while seasonal conditions are at their absolute worst, when leaving the timing of an auction for a couple of months might enhance chances of a reasonable sale result, following rain.
In Townsville on Friday, an attempt by mortgagees to sell Charters Towers district grazing property, Newburgh, failed when the property was passed in for $4.75 million.
Offered on a walk-in, walk-out basis with 4200 mixed cattle, plant and equipment, Newburgh was a distressed vendor sale through the mortgagee in possession, with the receivers taking the property to auction. About 40 people attended the Townsville auction, with two main bidders competing to take the final offer to the passed-in level.
Independent valuer Peter Honnef said the final offer indicated a bare/improved price of $3.05 million, $77/ha, $678 beast area value, whilst allowing say $1.7 million for cattle, plant and equipment and a carrying capacity of about 4500 adult equivalents.
“It’s not an ideal time to be selling a North Queensland property, being so hot and dry. Most people are busy feeding lick, checking dams for bogged cattle or completing their second-round muster,” he said.
Mr Honnef said an indication of the present state of low confidence, and that the property market is at about the bottom of its cycle, was also supported by several other recent North Queensland sales:
- Bullock Creek: A previous owner who had sold the station for $4.9 million wiwo at the peak of the market in 2006 has re-acquired Bullock Creek now for $2.8 million wiwo, with 1967 mixed cattle and limited station plant. The sale shows a bare/improved price of $2.003 million, $27/ha or $500/ae area (BAV). The property also sold in 2010 while MIP for $2.657m wiwo with 1200 breeders and some plant and equipment, to show a bare price of $2,132,200, $29/ha or $533/ae area.
- Rosella Plains: A privately-arranged sale where the purchaser was leasing part of the Mt Surprise property, and the vendor had financial pressure to sell. The purchaser paid $7.584 million, wiwo, with 5000 mixed cattle but no plant or equipment. The result suggested an improved/bare price of $5.484m, $67/ha, $914/ae area BAV. Rosella Plains had been acquired in 2012 for $7.3m, wiwo, after auction including 5000 mixed cattle and station plant/equipment, when it showed a bare/improved price of $5.2m, $64/ha, $867/ae area.