ROCKHAMPTON-based Senator Matthew Canavan has called on banks and industry to work together to reduce rural debt in a speech to the Senate on Tuesday night.
The speech came ahead of an announcement by Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce yesterday about a round table discussion to be held in Canberra on September 23.
Mr Joyce said he'd like to see banks join the discussion about reducing levels of debt among struggling farmers.
In his speech, Mr Canavan said the current debt levels, particularly in North Queensland, were the result of record low beef prices, decreasing land values, natural disasters and the 2011 live export ban.
"In the last five years, we have had a 40% reduction in land values, a 20% reduction in prices and a shutdown of one of our major markets for our beef industry," the LNP senator said.
"It is no wonder that people are in a desperate situation."
Mr Canavan cited Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences data which showed average debt in the northern beef industry over the last decade increased from $280,000 per farm to $650,000.
He said the biggest component of the increase was a result of just keeping their business running.
"People have too much debt," Mr Canavan said.
"We need those debt levels to come down to more moderate levels.
"We need the banks to be part of that process and the government has a role in helping to facilitate that. We have an obligation to help out people who are in need."