Pair to give refunds to more needy

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

The window to recoup funds owed to Australian wheat growers for more than two decades closed last Friday.

During the Gulf War, Iraq defaulted on payments for wheat from three seasonal pools from 1987-1990.

Accountancy firm Ferrier Hodgson contacted 48,662 growers earlier in the year, informing them they could claim before the end of the financial year to have money owed to them for more than 20 years repaid.

Over the next 17 years a total of $50 million will be paid back to eligible growers, with the first repayments set to begin later this year.

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For growers owed more than $100 the money will be distributed in annual instalments until 2028.

But despite being owed the money, just 28,500 growers have applied to recoup the funds; with many citing paperwork for what is these days a relatively small sum as a deterrent.

However, two farmers happy to fill in the forms to claim their cash are Colin and Anna Butcher.

The Brookton couple are set to receive just over $100 a year for the next 17 years, but rather than keep the money themselves, Colin and Anna are donating it to help farmers in developing countries.

The couple has decided to donate all their repayments to Kiva, a not for profit organisation which facilitates microfinance loans to people without access to traditional banking systems.

Through Kiva, individuals can lend small sums of money - as little as $25 - to farmers, small business owners or groups in developing countries hoping to improve their situation.

The money is paid back over a specified period, just like an ordinary loan, and more than 98 per cent of recipients successfully repay their loan.

Many of the individuals seeking loans through Kiva are farmers, seeking finance for things such as buying another cow or fertiliser.

The Butchers' wheat repayments will go towards administration costs for Kiva and Anna sees it as a win-win situation.

If the couple didn't donate their payments they would be completing forms on an annual basis for what Anna concedes isn't a huge sum of money these days.

"The costs in administering that over the repayment time of the fund is going to be quite significant, in both our time and in accountancy time," she said. "On top of that we then have to pay tax on it.

"It's a lot easier for us to donate it to a worthwhile cause and it will make a huge difference to people in Third World countries.

"It provides opportunities for other farmers to provide for their families, especially when it's not a huge loss to us, but it will be a huge opportunity for someone else."

Anna said they saw it as a chance to turn what was a negative all those years ago into a positive.

"I think we should always look for the positive," she said.

"At the time, when the payments were defaulted, it wasn't a wonderful thing, but it is good to be able to do some good out of it and bring about some positive results."

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