Bank of Ireland UK has confirmed to AgriLand that it has committed in excess of £60m sterling of additional finance to Northern Ireland’s farming industry over the past two years.

“We recently doubled our agri lending budget from the initial figure of £50m sterling up to £100m sterling, in line with the demand that has been demonstrated by the agri-food industry right across Northern Ireland,” added the bank’s agricultural manager William Thompson.

“The economics for agriculture as a whole are on the up and the prospects look generally positive for the coming months. Certainly, where milk is concerned, feed prices have come back while farmgate returns show every sign of remaining buoyant well into the New Year.”

Thompson went on to confirm that Bank of Ireland is managing to secure new customers within the farming sector. “Every client is assessed on his or her merits, as is every request for additional finance,” he stressed.

“Money is made available purely on the basis of a client’s ability to repay and the strength of the business plan moving forward. Particular note will also be taken of clients’ past track record in repayment of debt.”

He continued: “Farm businesses must make a profit in order to service and repay debt. This is why it is so important for local farmers to regularly scrutinise their businesses in order to identify those areas where cost savings can be made. Adding value to outputs or penetrating new markets are ways that farmers can typically improve the profits they generate.”

Speaking to members of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists in Belfast, Thompson went on to point out that many farmers are still in recovery mode following very challenging business conditions in 2012 and early 2013.

“Whilst returns across most sub sectors remain encouraging, farmers need to focus on aspects of their business within their control and strive to increase profit margins through technical efficiency. Looking ahead, all signs in the short term are positive, however everyone is aware of the volatile nature of this sector, therefore it is always important to plan for the worst and hope for the best,” he further explained. 

“Bank of Ireland UK is pleased to see that the recently published Going for Growth action plan is now being implemented.

“Over the past number of months I believe we have played an instrumental role in our discussions with both Government and Moy Park around the launch and implementation of the Agri Food Loan Scheme. Bank of Ireland UK has a strong appetite to work with the poultry sector.”