Farm leaders round on Minister over low-interest loan scheme
Creed’s package falls down on lack of cash flow options claim IFA and ICMSA
THE FAILURE of Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to deliver a promised low-interest loan scheme for farmers who are facing severe cashflow difficulties has been lambasted by the IFA.
The scheme, which was promised in Budget 2018 and which Minister Creed said would be on stream by the second half of the year, still hasn’t been delivered.
A €25m fund was secured by the Department of Agriculture which was to be used to lever further monies for the scheme.
The previous support package which was brought forward for farmers — the €150m Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme — was a massive success and the plan was to structure the latest scheme in a similar fashion.
Asked why the package which was cleared in last October’s Budget was still not up and running, Minister Creed pointed to the number of departments and bodies were involved in the initiative and he claimed that getting “all the moving parts” to come together was proving difficult.
However, IFA president Joe Healy said the failure of Minister Creed to deliver the package was “incredible”.
“It beggars belief actually that something that was announced last October isn’t rolled out. There’s a precedent there for it and you’d imagine all the hard work was done on it the year before.
“There was huge demand for it the previous year. It was oversubscribed despite what the Minister and the Department were saying to us that there wouldn’t be a demand for it. It was oversubscribed in less than three weeks,” the IFA leader pointed out.
“The demand would probably be twice as much for it this year given the very difficult year and huge costs, particularly at this time of year where you have farmers who want to pay the contractors, grain merchants and feed merchants. And the tax bill is around the corner. We have called on the minister to treat it as an act of priority to get that loan scheme out,” Mr Healy said.
Meanwhile, the ICMSA leader Pat McCormack expressed disappointment that the Longterm Investment Loan Scheme which was recently announced by Minister Creed excludes loans for the purposes of alleviating cashflow difficulties.
Details of the loan scheme were outlined by Minister Creed recently, with formal approval for the package expected in early October. The loans are designed to prepare farming and SMEs for the expected fall-out from Brexit and offered finance at an interest rate of 5pc for capital investment.
However, Mr McCormack said short-term finance, rather than long-term investment, was farmers’ primary concern this year. “Farmers generally will be as puzzled as I am as to the reasoning behind a decision to not loan money to those individuals so hard-pressed right now in terms of cashflow,” Mr McCormack said.
“The obvious point to make is that confining the low-interest loans to capital purposes is all very well, but there’ ll be an unfortunate number who mightn’t get to make any decision about a capital spend because they can’t get past the current cashflow crisis,” he said.