I propose to take Questions Nos. 2097 and 2098 together.
Over a series of Budgets, I have put in place measures to assist companies prepare for and mitigate the impact of Brexit.
In Budget 2018, my Department contributed to a €300m Brexit Loan Scheme, at least 40% of which is available to food businesses. The Scheme was developed by the Department in cooperation with Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the Department of Finance and the SBCI 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 it 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%, ranging from 1 year to 3 years, with unsecured loans 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.
Budget 2018 also introduced a €50m dedicated Brexit package which included supports to Bord Bia and Teagasc. This funding is supporting Bord Bia in its investment in market insight (through its ‘ThinkingHouse’) and in market prioritisation initiatives which are aimed at identifying and developing potential diversification opportunities. Furthermore, tailored supports and analysis are also being provided to food companies through Bord Bia’s Brexit Barometer.
Regarding product diversification, my Department is supporting Teagasc in the development of a new National Food Innovation Hub in Fermoy.
Budget 2019 introduced a €78m Brexit package for farmers, fishermen, food SMEs and to cover additional costs related to Brexit. Of this €27 million was for capital funding for the food industry.
Lastly, the Future Growth Loan Scheme launched by DBEI/DAFM will bring 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 my Department. Businesses have been able to apply for loan eligibility through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) since 17th April 2019.