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Major corporates pledge to give millions for drought affected families

The Commonwealth Bank, Coles and Woolworths have pledged millions of dollars to not-for-profits focused on helping drought affected farmers

The Commonwealth Bank (CBA) and Coles have pledged grants to help farmers affected by severe drought that is now affecting large parts of eastern Australia.

Commonwealth Bank has donated $2 million, with $1.75 million to go to the Australian Red Cross’s national fundraising appeal and $250,000 will support charity Rural Aid’s Buy a Bale program, the bank announced on Wednesday.

Matt Comyn, CEO of Commonwealth Bank, said worsening conditions prompted the donation.

“The drought is having a devastating impact on farmers and regional communities. Our donation will support the work being done by our local branches to provide much-needed help for farmers, including hay to feed livestock,” Comyn said.

Throughout August, CBA branches will also be accepting public donations to the Red Cross Appeal. The bank also announced it would not apply default interest rates on business term loans for customers suffering financial difficulty because of the drought.

CBA’s move comes after agribusiness bank Rabobank announced on Monday that it would not apply higher penalty interest rates on loans in default due to drought. NAB also announced a drought assistance package for customers in NSW and Queensland.

Coles has pledged to provide $5 million in grants and interest-free loans from its existing Nurture Fund to help farmers and launched a fundraising appeal, a day after Woolworths announced a $1.5 million pledge to Buy a Bale.

All funds raised through the Coles fundraising appeal will be provided to the Country Women’s Association to provide support to drought-affected families.

Coles Managing Director, John Durkan, said Coles was keen to do more to support families: “Many of our team members at stores in drought affected communities have heard harrowing stories from customers about the impact of the drought.

“Our store teams in these communities have helped by collecting donations of non-perishable food or providing gift cards but we wanted to take action at a national level to help more families facing hardship right now and to help farmers to combat drought in the future.”

Ninety-nine per cent of NSW is in drought, according to the state’s Department of Primary Industries, while Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries estimates 57 per cent of that state is in drought.

Below average rainfall since April 2017 has been exacerbated by warm, dry weather.

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