Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture and member of the Public Accounts Committee, Matt Carthy TD, has criticised the government’s approach to facilitating credit for farmers and the agricultural sector more broadly as “insufficient” and as “leaving farmers without the support they need”.
Teachta Carthy was speaking following a Dáil motion which provided additional funds to the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) which has previously offered a number of financial products to farmers.
The Cavan/Monaghan TD said:
“The SBCI has yielded mixed results with their Brexit and Covid loan offerings. Significant variance in draw down rates across their products has resulted in a significant amount of capital sitting idle. This was funding that was meant to support our SMEs and farmers.
“Agriculture has been the one area where demand has far outstripped supply.
“When the SBCI appeared before the Public Accounts Committee in March, the Agriculture Cash Flow Support Scheme was the single offering that was fully subscribed, with only 35% of monies remaining to be repaid.
“It has now been reported that farmers have fully drawn down their allocation from the Future Growth Loan Scheme (FGLS).
“When the SBCI left the PAC last March, we were under the impression that a dedicated €330million loan scheme was in preparation for the agricultural sector.
“This would have represented a significant increase on the credit available to farmers via the previous cashflow scheme and FLGS, and it would seem a natural progression given the success of the previous schemes.
“However, I am now concerned that it is the intention of government that the only credit to be provided will be but a portion of the referenced €330 million – this is clearly not adequate for the needs of our agricultural sector.
“I have requested that the Public Accounts Committee write to the SBCI to clarify the offerings that will be available to farmers and the agri-food sector over the coming months.
“I will welcome any lines of credit to our farmers – but on an individual level, many farmers asking themselves if this scheme will benefit them will likely come to the conclusion ‘probably not’.
“Given the success of the previous schemes, it beggars belief that Ministers would not seize the opportunity to make a solid investment in our farmers and increase capacity to assist as many as possible.”