This year has been a challenging one for Australian farmers, and the broader agricultural sector. A large part of the year was spent in devastating drought, many parts of Australia burned for weeks over summer, then the global COVID-19 pandemic has brought health and economic fears and uncertainty.
At the RIC, we have had our own challenges as we rapidly scaled up our operations to support the significant demand for our loans, particularly from drought-affected farmers seeking financial respite to manage through and recover from the drought.
Despite the challenges, the RIC has gone from strength to strength this year, significantly increasing the number of loan applications approved each month, yet we still have more work to do to keep pace with demand and process loans faster. For the 2019-20 financial year we approved more than 635 Farm Business loans valued at over $715 million to build a stronger regional Australia.
We know from our customers that RIC loans are making a difference to their farm businesses. Many of our customers have used their RIC loan to refinance up to 50 per cent of their existing debt to benefit from the RIC’s two-year interest free terms on its drought- related loans. This frees up critical cash flow for farmers and farm-related small business owners to reinvest back into their business or spend the money where they need it most to support their business.
This financial year in January 2020 saw RIC loan accessibility increase with the launch of the AgBiz Drought Loan for small businesses providing goods and services to farmers affected by drought. Previously only farmers were eligible for RIC loan products. The AgBiz Drought Loan recognises that drought affects more than the farmer, it also affects the small businesses that rely on them for income, so we’re pleased to now offer this product to support them.
Another way the RIC is supporting regional Australia is through its National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility (NWILF) which is available for state and territory governments to build and improve regional water infrastructure. Improved water security means more resilient regional communities. The RIC has worked closely with water infrastructure stakeholders in 2019-20 to understand their loan funding needs and potential project landscape.
On behalf of the RIC Board we are very proud of what has been achieved this year, the RIC’s second year of operation, and the valuable financial support we have provided to Australian farmers and farming small businesses. It’s also the great people at the RIC who are making the organisation what it is with their passion for regional Australia, and their knowledge that when our customers succeed, then we succeed too.