Farm Ireland

Monday 21 January 2019

Farmers told to 'stand back' from forced disposals as 150,000 acres of farmland faces distressed sale

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Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

The IFA is calling on farmers to 'stand back' from forced sales of farmland, as it estimates that at least 150,000 acres of farmland is under threat from forced sales.

Martin Stapleton, IFA Farm Business Chairman, has said that at least 2,500-3,000 farmers whose farmers may be in 'danger' and are facing vulture funds selling their farms to settle debts.

"It is not true that farmers are not willing to engage, we find it's the vulture funds who are not engaging." IFA, he said, is opposed to any forced sale of farms by vulture funds where the farmer is willing to implement a credible solution.

The key people, he said, in this are potential buyers and we are saying "don't get involved with a vulture fund for the sake of quick is simply not right to force through a sale where there is an alternative on the table".

IFA President Joe Healy said "the faceless funds which ave no understanding of farming are hellbent on destroying families while feeding on the carcass of the family farm.

"Farm families should be given the time to repay their debts over a longer term to keep the farm intact."

For a farmers view read: 'I know I will be standing up to the vulture funds' - The farmer with a 69-year career is determined to fight back

Loans that are barely in the category of being called 'distressed' are being sold with other loans to make the overall package more attractive, Martin Stapleton said.

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He also said that it is 'wrong' to have unregistered entities buying loans from reputable banks and that farmers are entitled to have the same security and options as other sectors.

"The Ulster Bank loan sales to Promontoria/Cerberus has created an enormous problem, both because of the number of cases and the increasing level of aggression with which they are dealing with our farmers. Link Asset Services, which is managing the loans on behalf of Promontoria, has simply refused point blank to engage with us."

In many cases the level of default or arrears is quite small and our experience is that farm loans is very attractive to vulture funds as the level of security is very strong and we think farm debt is being used as a carrot to help make loan packages more attractive, he said.

"We want farmers whose loans are sold to vulture funds are given the time and opportunity to pay off these loans."

The pillar banks are reluctant to sell, but the vulture funds have no such qualms, he said.

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