North Queensland farmers’ debt levels more than $2 billion.
North Queensland farmers’ debt levels more than $2 billion. Marian Faa

$2 billion debt hits NQ industry

FARMERS in the North Queensland region have a debt of more than $2 billion.

The latest figures were revealed in the State Government's Queensland Rural Debt Survey, released in July.

There were 3575 borrowers, who had an average debt of $575,000 in the Northern Coastal region - covering Mackay to Cairns.

Despite big changes in the agricultural industry since 2011, when then last survey came out, the debt level was relatively stable, up 0.02 per cent.

Today the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority was in Townsville talking producers through the report.

Rural and industry economist Corrie Feldman said it was important to know debt was not always a bad thing.

"Debt funding is what agriculture relies on in Australia, and it's no different in Queensland and in this region," she said.

"I think what we see that does differ in this region is obviously what industries are in debt."

"Debt is not bad by any means, debt is how our farming is run."

Unsurprisingly, this region had the highest amount of sugar debt at $880 million.

The Mackay, Burdekin and Herbert River areas produce the majority of Australia's sugar.

At today's forum, it was revealed in the Northern Coastal region, farmers in the Burdekin area had the highest amount of debt.

Some of the produce coming from this area includes huge amounts of sugar cane as well as fruit and vegetables.

This is the first time the survey has been done for six years.

"We are kind of starting fresh really with a brand new slate saying this is where rural debt is in Queensland," Ms Feldman said.

The State Government has mandated by law that the survey must be done every two years now.

Results from the survey will help the State Government form policy, Ms Feldman said.

Ms Feldman said the survey gave farmers an indication of how sectors were placed.

"If a farmer is looking to diversify into another industry, it would be interesting to look at where that industry snapshot is," he said.