19 Jun 2013

Farm debt growth rate slowing

6:27 am on 19 June 2013

Debt in the farming sector is still growing but the rate of growth is slowing.

This is being helped by the high New Zealand dollar, stagnant land prices and moves by farmers to reduce their loan levels following the global financial crisis.

A report by Forsyth Barr Research says debt growth across the agricultural sector surged from $15 billion in 2002 to $47 billion in 2009, outstripping total New Zealand debt growth.

Much of this was driven by a move towards dairy farming in the past decade.

The report says dairy debt has almost tripled and now makes up nearly two thirds of the industry's debt.

But Forsyth Barr equity analyst James Bascand said the debt growth has slowed in the last four years.

"From mid-2009 the agricultural debt level has grown from about $47 billion to $50 billion so comparatively with that early 2000s piece it's significantly slower.

"In fact agricultural debt has grown at a slower rate than the total New Zealand debt."

Mr Bascand said farmers will have to continue to cut their debts over the next three years until they reach sustainable levels.