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17 August 2020: Queensland Rural Debt Survey reflects challenges of drought and flood

17 August 2020

Total rural debt in Queensland is $19.10 billion, a rise of 10.75 per cent since 2017 according to the 2019 Queensland Rural Debt Survey tabled in Parliament earlier this month, with average debt per borrower increasing by a similar level to $1.05 million.

The 2019 Queensland Rural Debt Survey conducted as at 31 December 2019 was undertaken by the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) in collaboration with the Queensland Government Statisticians Office (QGSO) and with the support of all major rural lenders and insights from agricultural industry associations.

Rural debt is defined as the total indebtedness of all farmers and rural enterprises throughout Queensland, where the servicing of the rural debt relies primarily on rural generated income.

QRIDA Economist Corrie Feldman said while rural debt had increased, the quality or rating of that debt had remained proportionally the same as the 2017 survey, with a majority (93%) of borrowers and value of rural debt rated viable (‘A’) or long-term viable (‘B+’).

Ms Feldman said the results reflected the resilience of primary producers even in challenging years, and the continuing strong rural land values that largely underpinned that rural debt.

“The increase in overall debt levels reflects the very tough circumstances faced by rural businesses throughout the 2017 to 2019 survey period including the ongoing drought impacting a majority of the state which had the twin effect of eroding farm incomes due to decreased cropping and livestock production and increasing rural debt levels,” Ms Feldman said.

“This impact was further amplified by the North and Far North Queensland Monsoon Trough event in early 2019 which saw losses of over 500,000 head of livestock including core breeding herds, crops and pastures inundated, and topsoil removed.

“Debt funding remains the principal source of capital for Queensland primary producers including for working capital, infrastructure, property and other investment purposes.

“Queensland’s beef industry again represented the largest proportion of rural debt in 2019 at $10.67 billion or 56 per cent of total rural debt, followed by the grain industry ($1.28 billion or 7 per cent), grain/grazing industry ($1.20 billion or 6 per cent) and the sugar industry ($1.11 billion or 6 per cent).

“The Western Downs and Central Highlands region represented $6.27 billion or almost 33 percent of total rural debt in Queensland, followed by the Southern Coastal Curtis to Moreton region ($4.46 billion or 23%) and Eastern Darling Downs region ($2.59 billion or 14%).

“Since the survey was conducted in December 2019, Queensland and Australian agriculture has seen a generally improved seasonal outlook, however, at the same time is experiencing yet more uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The impacts are yet to be fully realised and the effects of it may be seen in the 2021 survey.”

Ms Feldman said the 2019 Rural Debt Survey provided a comprehensive breakdown of the value, movement and quality of rural debt and the number of borrowers by industry and regions across Queensland.

“I wish to especially thank the banks for their participation in the 2019 survey and those rural groups that provided insights on industry trends,” Ms Feldman said.

For more see the 2019 RDS overview, full report, and videos at


Editor’s Note: The Rural and Regional Adjustment Act 1994 (Qld), formally requires QRIDA to undertake the Queensland Rural Debt Survey every two years unless an equivalent national rural debt survey is available.

The next Queensland Rural Debt Survey is scheduled for December 2021.

Media contacts:

Emma Clarke 3032 0137/ 0403 944 902

Last updated
17 August 2020