Coles’ plea to its customers

SUPERMARKET giant Coles and Westpac bank have become the latest big companies to pitch in to help farmers suffering from ongoing drought conditions.

Woolies has also jumped on board, pledging to donate a day's profits to drought relief.

Farmers are struggling as 100 per cent of NSW is impacted by drought with no relief in sight with drier than normal conditions forecast for the coming months. Almost 60 per cent of Queensland is also affected by the tinder dry conditions.

The latest Department of Primary Industries data shows almost 22 per cent of NSW is suffering intense drought, 40 per cent is in drought and nearly 38 per cent is drought-affected, reported AAP.

The combined drought indicator - which takes in rainfall, soil water, plant growth and long-term climate data - suggests no part of NSW is recovering despite some recent rains.

Coles has said it will match dollar-for-dollar all customer donations during August to its drought appeal.

The combined donations raised at checkouts and matched by Coles will be provided to the Country Women's Association (CWA) to support drought-affected families, to help cover household expenses such as school expenses and food, medical, electricity and water bills.

In addition $5 million has already been pledged in grants or interest-free loans to farmers who have a project which will help them to combat drought in the future.

Coles will match customer donations until the end of the month. Picture: Stuart McEvoy
Coles will match customer donations until the end of the month. Picture: Stuart McEvoy

Coles managing director John Durkan said: "We know our customers want to do more to support families affected by drought. For every donation no matter how big or small, our customers can be assured they will be making a difference to the rural communities experiencing hardship and distress."

On Thursday, Woolworths announced that all profits from sales in the fresh departments at its supermarket this coming Saturday will be donated to Rural Aid's Buy a Bale appeal in support of farmers impacted by the drought.

It follows Woolworths' initial $1.5 million donation, plus further store fundraising, which is helping Rural Aid deliver more hay, essential items and counselling support services to farmers in need.

Westpac is also chipping in. The NSW-based bank has created a $100 million fund to loan to drought-affected farmers, who will be able to offset money put away in good times against money they've borrowed.

It comes after Agriculture Minister David Littleproud piled pressure on the bank to let farmers offset farm management deposits against their loans. Earlier in the week, Mr Littleproud encouraged farmers to tell Westpac to "jam it" and take their business elsewhere.

The bank has now joined Commonwealth Bank, Rabobank, NAB and Rural Bank in falling in line with the minister's demands.

Westpac will offer an interest adjustment for customers with farm management deposits to effectively offset balances against eligible business loans. ANZ is the remaining lender yet to offer a farm management deposit offset. The $100 million fund will provide loans of up to $1 million to existing Westpac agribusiness customers at discounted variable interest.

Drought-affected farmers with Westpac will also be able to defer principal and interest repayments for up to 12 months on existing loans.

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