Elders agri finance eases recovery after Cyclone Debbie
Three months after Tropical Cyclone Debbie caused widespread destruction in Queensland and northern New South Wales, agricultural finance specialists from Elders have been working with their farmer clients to ease their pathway to recovery.
“At times like these, it is essential to quickly gauge how individual clients have been affected and work with them to adapt their finance to those new circumstances,” said Linda Paterson, Agri Finance Manager with Elders based in Rockhampton.
“It reflects Elders’ commitment to producers through the good times and the bad, rather than being ‘fair weather’ finance providers who can’t be found when the going gets tough.”
Like other Elders Agri Finance specialists in the north, Ms Paterson recognises it will take months if not years for some clients to get their farm enterprises back into shape after massive losses to pastures, crops, livestock, farm buildings, machinery, fencing and homes.
“That’s not counting the emotional impact of your home and livelihood being damaged or destroyed, and your pets or stock washed away in flood waters,” she said.
“However, like farmers everywhere, our clients have their sleeves rolled up, repairing and replacing what they can and working to put Cyclone Debbie behind them.
“In the meantime, we are making it as easy as possible by reviewing lending arrangements, adjusting repayment schedules and championing our clients’ interests with our credit managers and finance partners at Rural Bank, with the overall objective of keeping our clients in business for the long term.”
Some of the biggest losses caused by Cyclone Debbie under Ms Paterson’s watch occurred in the Callide Valley south-west of Rockhampton, because of the speed at which the floodwaters rose and the enormous volumes of water involved.
It was the fourth flood in the last five years, exacerbated by water released from the Callide Dam upstream.
Pasture, forage sorghum and broadacre crops in the region were covered in metre-high floodwaters for up to 48 hours.
“This time, there were no stock losses but the hope is always that rain will be received soon after the flood to wash off the mud,” Ms Paterson said.
“While some clients have spent a lot of money on fuel, seed and fertiliser to replant, the positive news from the cyclone is that regions like the Callide Valley have a full moisture profile which will pay dividends for winter and summer crops and pastures in coming months.”
“However, the biggest stock and infrastructure losses occurred north of Rockhampton near the small communities of Clarke Creek and Lotus Creek where stock losses were significant and homes and businesses were completely destroyed.”
Ms Paterson emphasised the importance of forging strong relationships with individual clients, particularly at stressful times like these.
She joined Elders in 2015 after years in rural banking and three years as a finance consultant.
A central Queenslander all her life, Ms Paterson looks after clients from Bundaberg to Mackay and west as far as the Queensland – Northern Territory border.
It’s a huge region taking in every imaginable rural enterprise from winter and summer grains and horticultural crops to cotton, cattle and sheep.
Since joining Elders, Ms Paterson has attended Elders events and stud and commercial cattle sales to promote Elders finance services to a new generation of producers, as well as multi-generational clients who have done business with Elders for decades.
“Elders is in a unique position because producers can do all their business when they walk through the door of an Elders store,” she said.
“Beyond our more traditional services such as selling livestock, we offer finance, financial planning, real estate, merchandise, agronomic advice and a host of other services, so we are working hard to promote those to new and existing clients.”
Linda Paterson in the saleyard
Preparation pays off
Farmer resilience and preparation for cyclones is nowhere more evident than in Bowen, where one of Elders’ clients is returning to full production six weeks after suffering the full force of Cyclone Debbie.
Simon Gilbert, Elders Senior Agri Finance Manager based in Innisfail, has been assisting a Bowen couple who started growing 10,000 cartons of tomatoes a year 15 years ago with aspirations to expand their operation to one million cartons a year.
“This couple started with a small leased block with a long-term goal of establishing a successful farm enterprise,” Mr Gilbert said.
“By actively acquiring the skills and connections they needed, their business now produces one to 1.2 million cartons of tomatoes a year, tropical cyclones excepted.”
Long before Cyclone Debbie, Mr Gilbert said the couple had the foresight to prepare for the worst by positioning their farm and infrastructure to recover quickly, relocating more than a million seedlings to a cyclone-proof shed to weather the storm.
“This action meant the farm was back in production six weeks after the cyclone passed through,” Mr Gilbert said.
“Just as these growers are planning for a successful future, we at Elders Agri Finance are partnering with our clients for the long term.”
Elders Innisfail’s Senior Agri Finance Manager, Simon Gilbert
For more information on Elders agri finance solutions please visit the website here.
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