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Agricultural Finance Forum highlights importance of rural sector.

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BACK Home | Media Releases AFFA02/57T - 28 November 2002

Agricultural Finance Forum highlights importance of rural sector

AFFA02/57T 28 November 2002

Drought, and the importance of the rural sector on the Australian economy, took centre stage during yesterday's (27 November) 12th Meeting of the Agricultural Finance Forum (AFF) at Parliament House, Canberra.

The AFF is chaired by the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Judith Troeth, and draws together high-level representatives from the agri-finance and primary production sectors, including the National Farmers' Federation, the Australian Bankers' Association, the four major Australian banks, leading pastoral houses, rural financial counsellors and professional accountants.

"The current drought has a fierce stranglehold on so much of our farming land," Senator Troeth said. "Many people have now realised the critical role the rural sector plays in the Australian economy.

"Drought relief is a priority, and the Commonwealth Government will commit more than $350 million to Exceptional Circumstances drought relief to our farmers.

"Business planning and adopting effective risk-management practices are fundamental to farm survival during droughts. It is encouraging to see the agri-finance sector demonstrating its long-term commitment to primary producers by pursuing solutions to reduce the financial pressures of drought."

ABARE's latest forecast is for production in 2002-03 of the four major winter grains - wheat, barley, canola and lupins - to fall to 14.8 million tonnes, more than 5 million tonnes below its September estimate of 20 million tonnes.

"This will be the smallest harvest since 1994-95 when the aggregate yield for the four crops was just over 13 million tonnes," Senator Troeth said. "ABARE also estimates the drought will reduce Australia's rate of economic growth in 2002-03 by around 0.7 per cent, or about $5.4 billion."

Other issues discussed at the Forum included:

the use of Farm Management Deposits to lessen the business impact of drought; ● Farm Help welfare payments to assist farmers in hard times; and ● Exceptional Circumstances business funding for drought relief and implementing Environmental Management Systems for primary production enterprises. ●

Forum members also reported on their drought experiences from personal and business perspectives. The Agricultural Finance Forum's next scheduled meeting is March 2003.