At least €120m af­ford­able loans for food busi­nesses

Irish Examiner - Farming - - NEWS - Stephen Cado­gan

At least 40% of the €300 mil­lion Brexit Loan Scheme opened by the Gov­ern­ment this week will be avail­able to food busi­nesses.

The scheme, which was an­nounced in the 2018 bud­get, will pro­vide af­ford­able fi­nanc­ing to busi­nesses that are ei­ther cur­rently im­pacted by Brexit or will be in the fu­ture. Min­is­ter for Busi­ness, En­ter­prise and In­no­va­tion, Heather Humphreys said: “The scheme will pro­vide much-needed fi­nance to el­i­gi­ble busi­ness im­pacted by the UK’s de­ci­sion to leave the Euro­pean Union.

“I am con­fi­dent that it will make a real dif­fer­ence to firms, en­abling them to adapt, change and in­no­vate. “This, in turn, will help them to be­come more com­pet­i­tive, a fun­da­men­tal trait in any re­silient busi­ness”.

“It will give SMEs time and the fi­nan­cial sup­port to make the nec­es­sary changes to help en­sure that their busi­nesses re­main com­pet­i­tive so that they can con­tinue to grow

What are the loan con­di­tions? >> The loans are at an in­ter­est rate of 4% or less.

The loan amount is from €25,000 up to a max­i­mum of €1,500,000, and the loan term is up to three years.

Loans less than €500,000 will be un­se­cured Loans can be used for fu­ture work­ing cap­i­tal re­quire­ments to fund in­no­va­tion or change, or adapt the busi­ness to mit­i­gate the im­pact of Brexit. Fi­nance Min­is­ter Paschal Dono­hoe said the loan scheme is de­signed to as­sist small to medium en­ter­prises (SMEs) with their short term work­ing cap­i­tal needs, sup­port­ing them in pre­par­ing for the chal­lenges that may lie ahead. “It will give SMEs time and the fi­nan­cial sup­port to make the nec­es­sary changes to help en­sure that their busi­nesses re­main com­pet­i­tive so that they can con­tinue to grow into the fu­ture.”

SBCI CEO Nick Ash­more said the scheme will help busi­nesses im­pacted by Brexit to have the work­ing cap­i­tal needed to in­no­vate and di­ver­sify, to find new mar­kets, and to grow into the fu­ture.

How do busi­nesses ap­ply to take part?

El­i­gi­ble busi­nesses can now ap­ply for the scheme through the par­tic­i­pat­ing fi­nance providers. The scheme is open through Bank of Ire­land and Ul­ster Bank, with AIB fol­low­ing in June.

The first step for busi­nesses will be to com­plete the el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria for the scheme on the Strate­gic Bank­ing Cor­po­ra­tion of Ire­land (SBCI) web­site.

What busi­nesses can take part?

>> The scheme is open to el­i­gi­ble busi­nesses with up to 499 em­ploy­ees.

How did the scheme come about?

>> It is sup­ported by the Gov­ern­ment’s counter guar­an­tee agree­ment backed by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion through the Euro­pean In­vest­ment Fund (EIF), which is part of the Euro­pean In­vest­ment Bank Group, so that €14m se­cured by the then Min­is­ter for Busi­ness, En­ter­prise and In­no­va­tion in last Oc­to­ber’s bud­get, and €9m by the Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture, Food and the Ma­rine, can be lever­aged to pro­vide €300m to Ir­ish busi­nesses af­fected by Brexit. SBCI have signed up to sup­port lend­ing to­ward in­no­va­tive SMEs) as well as small mid-caps, un­der In­novFin (EU fi­nance for in­no­va­tors sup­ported by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion).

This agree­ment al­lows SBCI to pro­vide guar­an­tees to len­ders fi­nanc­ing in­no­va­tive com­pa­nies in Ire­land for a to­tal of €300m over the next two years with the sup­port of a counter-guar­an­tee pro­vided by the EIF and backed un­der Hori­zon 2020, the EU Frame­work Pro­gramme for Re­search and In­no­va­tion. This is the first In­novFin SME counter-guar­an­tee agree­ment in Ire­land, en­abling SBCI to en­hance in­no­va­tive com­pa­nies’ ac­cess to fund­ing at favourable con­di­tions.

The Scheme is ad­min­is­tered for both De­part­ments by SBCI.

Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Michael Creed said: “I am pleased to launch this im­por­tant scheme today, for which my Depart­ment’s fund­ing en­sures that at least 40% of the €300m will be avail­able to food busi­nesses. The Food Wise 2025 strat­egy out­lines the agri­food sec­tor’s unique and spe­cial po­si­tion within the Ir­ish econ­omy and its po­ten­tial for fu­ture growth. Brexit is ob­vi­ously a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge given our unique ex­po­sure to the UK mar­ket. Food busi­nesses will need to fo­cus on com­pet­i­tive­ness and in­no­va­tion in or­der to con­tinue the growth in Ir­ish agri-food ex­ports, which reached a record €13.6 bil­lion in 2017.”

At the Lif­fey Trust in Dublin’s in­ner city to launch the €300m Brexit Loan Scheme for busi­nesses, from left, Gavin Pren­der­gast, Ur­ban Pic­nic; Nick Ash­more, CEO, SBCI; Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Michael Creed; Busi­ness Min­is­ter Heather Humphreys; and Fi­nance Min­is­ter Paschal Dono­hoe.

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