Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Farmers survey paints bleak picture of rural banking

Federated Farmers says the findings of its latest banking survey paint a damning picture of the state of rural lending.

“Rural banking issues are nearing crisis point and farmers are quickly losing confidence,” said Federated Farmers commerce and competition spokesperson, Richard McIntyre.

“Things have clearly gone from bad to worse, with consecutive surveys showing all the key metrics we track heading in the wrong direction.

“We thought the results were bad in our last survey, six months ago, but farmers are now feeling even more miserable about the state of rural lending.”

The Federated Farmers Banking Survey was conducted from May 3-15, 2024, and received 642 responses from across New Zealand.

“The record profits banks have been making for the last few years have been well-publicised, but there are a few other records being broken that we want to shine a light on,” Mr McIntyre says.

He said farmers’ satisfaction with their banks has dropped five points to its lowest levels since the surveys began in May 2015.

“Six years ago, around 80% of farmers were satisfied with their bank, but that number has since plummeted to just 51%.”

A quarter of farmers held a neutral view, while those saying they were ‘dissatisfied’ or ‘very dissatisfied’ increased to 23.6% – a new record high.

“Alarmingly, we also have one in four farmers reporting they have come under undue pressure from their bank,” Mr McIntyre says.

“These aren’t just statistics. These numbers represent real Kiwi farming families who are clearly under huge pressure from high interest rates, rampant inflation and reduced incomes.”

Given the increased scrutiny of rural lending in recent times, Federated Farmers added a new question to their recent survey.

They asked: ‘Do you think New Zealand banks are presently demonstrating a positive commitment to support farming through difficult periods of high interest rates?’

McIntyre says it was incredibly disappointing that only 1-in-5 farmers responded ‘yes’ to that question.

“At a time when farmers are really struggling, I would have hoped to see our banks stepping up to help, but instead they seem to be tightening the screws.”

“These figures are of real concern and add considerable weight to Federated Farmers’ calls for an independent inquiry into rural banking.

“There are clearly some widespread issues in our rural banking system that need to be closely looked at and addressed – urgently.”

Federated Farmers will be presenting to Parliament’s Primary Production Select Committee on the need for an independent inquiry into rural banking this morning.

You can read Federated Farmers’ full submission here.

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