Mindful of the impacts of Brexit on the agri-food sector, I have advanced a number of Brexit-related supports to mitigate these impacts. A key initiative in this regard is the €300m Brexit Loan Scheme announced in Budget 2018. The Scheme has been developed by my Department in cooperation with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the Department of Finance and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, in order to provide working capital support to enable eligible Irish businesses (SMEs and small mid-caps) to implement the necessary changes to address the challenges posed by Brexit. It opened for applications on 28 March 2018 and will remain open until 31 March 2020.
It provides for loans of €25,000 to €1,500,000 per eligible enterprise, at a maximum interest rate of 4%, over periods from 1 year to 3 years, with unsecured loans of up to €500,000. The loans can be used for future working capital requirements or to fund innovation, change or adaptation of the business to mitigate the impact of Brexit. 563 applications have been approved up to 17th May 2019. The total number of loans progressed to sanction at bank level is 132 with a total value of €29.0m, of which 27, with a value of €7.8m, relate to food businesses.
The recently launched DBEI/DAFM “Future Growth Loan Scheme” will make up to €300 million of long-term strategic investment loans available to eligible Irish businesses, including farmers and the agri-food & seafood sectors. The fund is leveraged by exchequer funding of €62 million, of which 40% or some €25 million has been provided by the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine. Businesses have been able to apply for loan eligibility through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland since 17th April 2019.
In addition, my Department has provided an additional €18m for Bord Bia over the last five years and has intensified its efforts to open new markets for Irish agri-food produce and live animals.