Rabobank Australia CEO Peter Knoblanche said the bank was fully supportive of the aims of the taskforce and welcomed the opportunity to be involved.
“The opportunity to bring together the agricultural sector’s major financial providers with government and the National Farmers’ Federation is a very positive initiative, which will help facilitate a coordinated approach to supporting drought-affected farmers and rural and regional businesses,” he said.
“Bringing together the knowledge and perspective of these key stakeholders involved in the agricultural sector will be a very positive development in providing constructive, practical outcomes for those impacted by the severe drought conditions in many parts of eastern Australia. The bank looks forward to actively participating in the taskforce.”
Mr Knoblanche said Rabobank had a range of measures in place to support its clients, who had been impacted by the current drought conditions.
“As a specialist agribusiness bank, we understand that climatic extremes – even ones as severe as the current ongoing drought – are part of the agricultural sector, not just in Australia but globally, so it is standard practice for us to support our clients through adverse conditions, where circumstances are outside their control,” he said. “In these situations, we work with clients individually and provide a range of measures to provide support through these periods.”
Mr Knoblanche said the bank’s clients in areas of Australia currently impacted by drought were, in the majority of circumstances, continuing to manage the dry conditions and remain in sustainable financial positions.
“As in previous droughts, in instances where support is required, we have been working closely with affected farmers and agribusiness operators to assist them through the current challenges and to be able to rebuild production and their financial positions when seasonal conditions improve,” he said.
Mr Knoblanche said assistance measures provided by the bank for drought-impacted clients included:
- ‘carry on’ finance to keep viable operations running,
- waiver of break costs on early redemption of Farm Management Deposits to allow access to needed funds,
- deferral of scheduled loan payments,
- waiver of fees on loan increases necessary for rebuilding operations and
- waiver of fees for equipment finance variations.
“Where required, measures include individual agreements reached with viable clients to hold off action for agreed periods to allow them time to work through their financial difficulties and re-build their financial position when seasonal conditions improve,” he said.
Mr Knoblanche confirmed the bank was not applying higher interest rates to loans in default due to drought (in drought-declared regions) or to natural disasters, such as floods, bushfires and cyclones.