Four Cork credit unions join forces to 'cultivate' a special loan package for local farmers
Four Cork credit unions have joined forces to pilot an innovative new lending scheme offering specific finance packages to members of the farming community operating across the wider north Cork area.
Aptly called 'Cultivate', the scheme, which is being operated by the Mallow, Mitchelstown, Synergy (Fermoy) and Youghal credit unions, is modelled on a similar project that has been operating in Galway for the past year.
The Cork pilot aims to repeat the success of that particular scheme, which has issued loans worth more than €7 million to farmers in Galway and Clare over the past 12-months.
Spokesperson for the Cork scheme Ciara Fitzgerald, marketing and business development officer with Mallow Credit Union, said the group had identified farming as a particularly important sector to the economy and, with that in mind, had put together a definitive package of loans for farmers.
"In addition to generating income inside the farm gate, farming is also very much in the lifeblood of the rural community, with each euro earned by farmers having a multiplier effect in the rural economy," said Ms Fitzgerald.
The four Cork credit unions have been collaborating on the scheme, which will be launched next Tuesday evening at the Corrin Marts complex in Fermoy by Martin Stapleton, chair of the IFA Business Committee and 'Ear to the Ground' presenter Darragh McCullough, for the past 12-months.
This included a consultation process with stakeholders and the setting up of a focus group by the IFA.
"The feedback from this consultation and detailed market research has been invaluable in identifying the real needs of farmers. They value the face to face relationship banking and the personal touch of credit unions, where a farmer can come in and discuss his or her proposal," said Ms Fitzgerald.
"They value a speedy loan application process and the fact that no security may be required for the loan. Competitive interest rates are obviously important due to the nature of cash flow on a farm and flexible repayment options are also a key factor in the success of the Cultivate product."
It offers loans of up to €50,000 for a variety of purposes including livestock purchase, farm development and buying farm machinery purchase.
Start up finance for young trained entrants to farming will also feature in the loan package, with the terms of loans up to seven years.
"Farmers want to deal with people who have a knowledge of agriculture and understand farming. With this in mind credit union farm loan officers are completing an intensive Farm and Finance Training course organised by Teagasc and Pallaskenry Agricultural College," said Ms Fitzgerald.
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