I welcomed the recent announcement of a €1 billion loan programme by Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan and EIB Vice-President Andrew McDowell, aimed at increasing access to funding for EU farmers, especially young farmers.
This programme will be managed at Member State level by banks and leasing companies operating across the EU. Therefore, the details requested will only be known following engagements by these financial institutions with the Commission and the EIB.
In recent years, I have introduced a number of initiatives on access to finance. The Future Growth Loan Scheme has been developed by my Department and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, in partnership with the Department of Finance, the SBCI and the European Investment Fund (EIF). It will be delivered through participating finance providers and make up to €300 million of investment loans available to eligible Irish businesses, including farmers and the agri-food & seafood sectors. The loans will be competitively priced and will be for terms of 8-10 years and will support strategic long-term investment in a post-Brexit environment.
This is a long-awaited source of finance for young and new entrant farmers, especially the cohort who do not have high levels of security. It will also serve smaller-scale farmers, who often do not have the leverage to negotiate for more favourable terms with their banking institution.
Food companies have identified long term investment finance of up to ten years as a critical need which is currently unavailable in Ireland. I am pleased that the Government have been able to deliver this product and its effects will be felt all along the food production chain from primary producer to processor.
I was pleased to launch this Scheme recently with my colleagues. It is open for loan eligibility applications through the SBCI website since 17th April.
One of my priorities is to improve access to finance for the agri-food sector. I look forward to continuing to work with the Commission, the EIB and others to ensure that Irish farmers have access to appropriate financial products to enable them to sustain and develop their individual enterprises. This will contribute to the overall development of the agri food sector which is a hugely valuable part of the Irish economy and particularly important for our rural and coastal communities.