Against The Grain: Australian Banks Face Rural Lending Reckoning | 8/11/2017 | Staff
Mkgirlz (Posted by) Level 3
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian potato farmer Tom Fox says he had never missed a bank payment in two decades before a delay sending a shipment to Indonesia during a trade dispute between the countries prompted his lender to force him into receivership in 2013.

“I got a letter from the bank lawyers saying I had 12 hours to come up with A$2.4 million ($1.8 million), and that was an impossibility to do on that notice,” Fox told Reuters.

Farmer - Country - Seed - Potato - Producer

A third-generation farmer who built up the country’s biggest seed potato producer, Fox said his farm and equipment were sold below value by receivers for the country’s biggest rural lender, National Australia Bank Ltd .

Fox’s story encapsulates the issues driving a wedge between Australia’s $50 billion farm sector and its banks as a powerful public inquiry into financial sector misconduct begins its examination of agriculture lending practices this week.

Shareholder - Appetite - Profit - Growth - Closure

Shareholder appetite for continuous profit growth and the widespread closure of rural bank branches have left some farmers with a sense that their livelihoods are controlled by city executives with little care of issues beyond their control such as drought, wildfires and trade disputes.

For Fox, for instance, Indonesia’s surprise ban on Australian fresh produce imports – widely seen as retaliation for an Australian ban on live sheep exports – didn’t affect his type of potatoes. But the bank didn’t see the difference when he reported the shipping delay, he says, and called in a receiver.

NAB - Manager - Agribusiness - Khan - Horne

NAB’s general manager of agribusiness Khan Horne said Fox’s business was under “extreme financial pressure” by 2013, with “significant creditors dating back to the prior year’s trading, payroll issues and pressure from other suppliers”.

In an email, Horne said the bank hired receivers for the potato farm “based on financial default”, and the receivers “sought to work co-operatively with Mr Fox to realize...
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