One of my priorities is to improve access to finance for the agri-food sector. Food Wise 2025 identifies competiveness as a key theme and includes a recommendation that stakeholders work to “improve access to finance for agriculture, forestry and seafood producers and agri-food companies”.
The Future Growth Loan Scheme is being developed by my Department and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation in partnership with the Department of Finance, the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) and the European Investment Fund (EIF). It will be delivered through participating finance providers and make up to €300 million of long-term investment loans available to eligible Irish businesses, including the primary agriculture, agri-food & seafood sectors. The loans will be competitively priced and will be for terms of 8-10 years.
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. The delivery of this product and its effects will be felt all along the food production chain.
The fund is leveraged by exchequer funding of €62 million, of which 40% or some €25million will be provided by my Department. My Department’s contribution was announced as part of Budget 2018 and will be paid to the Scheme by the end of 2018.
Arrangements are currently being finalised to have the Scheme in place and ready to launch in early 2019. The Scheme will run for three years from its launch date and further announcements in this regard will be made shortly.