Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Ploughing 2018: Fine Gael accused of bungling over delay in low-cost loans

Ryan Tubridy gets all country as he tries to milk a cow with the assistance of Caitriona Mullin from Mountbellew in Galway at the Volac/IHFA stand. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Ryan Tubridy gets all country as he tries to milk a cow with the assistance of Caitriona Mullin from Mountbellew in Galway at the Volac/IHFA stand. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Minister Michael Creed. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Robin Conway, 10, Zoe Levingstone, 9 and Tess Whitebread, 9, from Carlow play with the water at the ploughing championships at Screggan, Co. Offaly. Pic credit; Damien Eagers / INM

Cormac McQuinn, Ciaran Moran and Philip Ryan

Fine Gael has been accused of ignoring farmers facing the challenges of Brexit as their wait for low-cost loans drags on.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has admitted that the loans scheme - allocated funding of €25m in last year's Budget - won't be ready until early 2019.

There has also been criticism that the loans - when they are finally available next year - will be for long-term investment on farms rather than day-to-day spending that could ease the fodder crisis.

Charlie McConalogue, the Fianna Fáil agriculture spokesman, claimed that Fine Gael is "ignoring the farming community when it comes to meeting Brexit challenges".

He also argued that the Government has shown the same attitude on the fodder crisis.

Mr McConalogue said: "It's a scandal given that we are only six months away from a potentially hard Brexit and at this stage the minister has not delivered on a Budget commitment from last year."

Meanwhile, the IFA president Joe Healy has warned that farmers are facing a winter of discontent due to fodder shortages after the summer drought.

He urged the minister to allow the use of the new loan scheme for working capital so that farmers can "clear their feed, fertiliser and contractor bills".

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Mr Healy also claimed that it is "farcical" the scheme isn't yet in place.

He said: "The Minister's stated position that these low-cost loans, when they eventually arrive, will be restricted to capital investment only, is like arriving to a fire with a cement mixer."

Speaking on RTÉ Radio, Mr Creed defended the delay, insisting such a product couldn't be "manufactured overnight".

Several partners, including the European Investment Bank, Government departments and the "pillar banks", are involved in the scheme.

Mr Creed's spokesman responded to the criticism by saying that over the last year the Department has delivered innovative financial products aimed at the agri-food sector.

There was a €150m working capital scheme in 2017 and the sector was included in a €300m Brexit Loan Scheme for small businesses.

He insisted Mr Creed has been "directly engaged in addressing the fodder deficit" which he said has been "significantly reduced" from 30pc in July to the current 11pc.

Irish Independent



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