Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has welcomed confirmation from the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) that they are considering a €330 million loan scheme targeted at the agricultural sector.
The SBCI confirmed they were examining such a scheme during a session of the Public Accounts Committee where Teachta Carthy questioned the body on the now closed Agricultural Cashflow Support Loan.
The €145 million Agricultural Cashflow Support Loan previously offered by the SBCI was oversubscribed, with some banks reaching capacity in days for loans offered at a 2.9% interest rate.
Teachta Carthy said:
“This proposed new scheme from the SBCI has the potential to alleviate some of the undue pressures placed on our family farmers as a result of the ongoing pandemic and Brexit.
“The oversubscription of their last agricultural scheme should serve as a testament to the need within the sector for affordable loans.
“However, I am concerned as to the effects that the announced Ulster Bank withdrawal and Bank of Ireland branch closures will have on the ability of some farmers to tap into this facility.
“We have heard in recent weeks just how dramatic the difference is for businesses in the SME sector to secure loans when a local bank branch is not available, and the same principle applies small to medium sized farmers.
“It is critical that the Department of Agriculture work with the SBCI to ensure that these loans are offered by a broad enough range of financial institutions so that they can reach into all of our rural communities.
“The SBCI have indicated they expect to be in a position to offer these loans in the second half of this year, so the time is right for the Department to engage and ensure that the scheme is constructed in a manner that makes certain it benefits the largest possible number of farmers.
“We cannot allow a situation to arise where smaller farmers are frozen out of these supports simply because of a pre-existing and worsening dearth of financial services in their communities.”