FOUR out of every five businesses in regional NSW are feeling the financial pinch from the ongoing drought.
In a survey by the NSW Business Chamber, 84 per cent of businesses indicated they were impacted by the drought, 43 per cent of which said the current drought was “far more severe” than previous droughts.
About one in three affected businesses said the viability of their business was at risk due to the current drought conditions, and more than two in three affected businesses indicated they would scale back investment and reduce capital compared to previous plans.
On average, affected businesses indicated they may have to reduce staffing levels by 1.5 employees.
The chamber’s New England North West manager, Joe Townsend, said this was the largest number of responses to a survey the chamber had ever received, which “truly demonstrates the depth” of the drought’s impact.
Ultra Lubricant owner Richard Neill said in the last three months, when many croppers missed out on planting a winter crop, he’d really noticed the downturn.
“We run accounts with all our customers and the debt collecting side of it is getting harder and harder,” Mr Neill said.
“The majority of them are farmers, and we don’t want to ring up to put the squeeze on them.
“At the same time, there is a downturn in actual sales, so it’s tough all round.”
Mr Townsend said while there was no silver bullet apart from rain, the chamber had suggested a range of measures including a one-stop shop to connect businesses with existing government programs and NSW government funding to allow council rate relief for drought-affected businesses.
The chamber also called for financial relief modelled on the Farm Household Allowance to be made available to family enterprises facing equivalent financial hardship.
“Our regional communities provide us with all the living essentials like milk, grains, fruit and veg, bread and meat,” Mr Townsend said.
“So it’s only right, that in times like this we come together, chip in and support all our farming and non-farming businesses alike to assist them through this difficult period.”
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