I propose to take Questions Nos. 465 and 471 together.
The Future Growth Loan Scheme has been developed by my Department and DBEI 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 investment loans available to eligible Irish businesses, including farmers and the agri-food & seafood sectors.
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.
The loans will be competitively priced, will be for terms of 8-10 years and will support strategic long-term investment in a post-Brexit environment. There is a minimum loan amount of €100,000 for SMEs or €50,000 for primary agriculture. The maximum loan amount is €3,000,000 and loans of under €500,000 will be made on an unsecured basis.
There will be €50 million to €60 million available initially for farmers, within an overall agri-food package of €120 million. Should demand exceed these levels, this can be reviewed.
The Scheme features a two-stage application process whereby initial application is made through the SBCI website. Successful applicants are issued an eligibility reference number which can then be used in an application to one of the participating finance providers. Approval of loans is subject to the finance providers’ own credit policies and procedures. Further information including a FAQ document may be accessed on the DAFM website via the following link: https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/agri-foodindustry/agri-foodandtheeconomy/agri-foodbusiness/futuregrowthloanscheme/.
SBCI recently issued an open call inviting banks and other lenders to become lending partners and this closed on 11 February. SBCI advise that a period of due diligence, which will include the EIF, will now follow. I have urged SBCI to operationalise the Scheme as soon as possible. The Scheme will run for three years from its launch date and further announcements in this regard will be made shortly.