Australia offers drought ravaged farmers up to $688 million in cheap loans


Water carriers wait for their tankers to be filled in Stanthorpe Australia. Agence France-Presse

"This is money in the pockets of our farmers to help keep their stock fed and watered, their staff and farm hands paid and their crops irrigated". Under the plan, loans of up to $2 million under the RIC would be offered to farmers under a reconfigured 10-year payback schedule.

The new instalment of funding will come from the existing Future Drought Fund. Principal and interest payments will then be due from year six.

"And so what we want to do is emulate that in a drought. Today's announcement triples this to more than $1 billion since the election, as well as more than $1 billion in new interest free loans, to see people through".

"Our drought plan is not set and forget", Mr Morrison said.

And six more local government areas will be added to the existing drought communities program, which since 2018/19 has involved a commitment of $123 million to a range of job-creation projects.

"There is no silver bullet to this drought".

"We have been back on the ground listening to farmers and their communities, and this package is a direct response to their feedback".

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Michael McCormack said the package was another step in a series of short and long-term measures already announced. Today is a joint announcement with the Nationals doing much of the talking.

"This suite of measures go to the heart of what matters to these communities". From small businesses to primary producers, we are working with communities to take the pressure off one of the worst droughts in history.

The Morrison Government's additional drought assistance announced today represents important steps for farmers and the environment.

Another $5 million will help assist child care centres experiencing decreased demand and the government will redirect $200 million from the Building Better Regions Fund to support drought-stricken communities, and pump an extra $138.9 million into road projects.

The Regional Investment Corporation's mandate sets its interest rate just to cover administration and borrowing costs.

About two-thirds of Queensland is affected by drought, while over 98 per cent of NSW has been impacted.

As for the roads, Mr Littleproud said rural roads would be fixed in the same way as after a flooding event.

The package also includes $1 million for each of the 122 drought-affected councils and shires along the east coast, if they need it.

"This will boost rural economies with more jobs and more business for regional suppliers like the local hardware store", he said.

In addition to offering cheap loans, Morrison said the government will also sell 100 billion litres (26.4 billion gallons) of water at discounted rates to farmers for growing up to 120,000 metric tonnes (132,000 U.S. tons) of fodder.

That amount of water would produce up to 120,000 tonnes of feed for animals on farms in drought, he said.

As well, the conditions on already-concessional loans for farmers will be eased further to help them get through the drought.

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