Drought-affected farmers won’t pay more rates

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Australian farmers who borrowed from ANZ Bank will not face homelessness anytime soon, as the major bank announced the immediate moratorium on all forced farm foreclosures in drought-affected areas until January 2016.

ANZ CEO Phil Chronican told The Australian the company is stopping the eviction of farmers who were severely hit by the drought, particularly in Queensland and northern NSW.

“We’ve been aware there are areas of extreme stress that have had this extended drought,” he said.

“It’s a relatively small part of the country but with growing public concern over these (farm foreclosures), we wanted to be on the front foot to defuse concerns…”

The bank also promised not to increase mortgage interest rates on loans made to any drought-affected farmers for 2015.

Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce on Wednesday set an ultimatum to the country’s major banks in order to stop putting drought-stricken farmers off their properties. Otherwise, they shall risk government intervention.

Joyce urged banks to be “fair, decent and patient” with north Australian farmers unable to pay their debts, and to “wait for the rain” instead.

“They must sort out this problem (of the mounting toll of farm foreclosures) or we will,” an angry Mr Joyce told The Australian. “We can (intervene), and we will if we have to.”

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