Farm groups call for second round of low cost loans
FARM bodies are calling for a second round of the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland’s (SBCI’s) €150m low-cost loan scheme for cash-strapped farmers.
The ICMSA, IFA and ICSA all stress that changes in qualification criteria must be considered in any potential new round.
The Agriculture Cash-flow Support Loan Scheme, developed by the Department ofAgriculture and SBCI, made money available to around 4,000 farmers at low-cost interest rates of 2.95pc.
The cheap loans system, made available through AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank, was over subscribed within a month of opening last February.
The average loan size under the scheme was €32,000, with beef and dairy farmers dominating the applications submitted.
However, farm bodies and debt resolution experts in the agri sector contend that many farmers most in need of financial assistance were “ruled out” of the scheme.
Lorcan McCabe, chairperson of ICMSA’s farm business committee said: “We would like to see a more targeted approach for a second tranche that goes past a superficial balance sheet and looks instead at the capacity of an individual to farm his or her way out of the difficulty.
“There’s undoubtedly a group of farmers out there under financial pressure and a restructured loan over a longer period at a low interest rate would allow them to farm their way out of trouble — maybe a second tranche should be focused in that direction.” Bank of Ireland managed €65m under the scheme — the largest allocation of the three participating banks — more than €39m of this has already been issued.