Bank borrowings for the agricultural sector in Northern Ireland stand at £973 million, with money on deposit amounting to £611 million latest estimates suggest.

According to Ulster Bank’s head of agriculture, Cormac McKervey, all sectors of agriculture are performing reasonably well at the present time.

“Merchant credit is probably in the region of £250 million at the present time, but the amount of money taken out to finance machinery is unknown.

“However, the fact that the bank borrowing figure has remained below the £1 billion level for the past two years is highly significant.”

McKervey, who has been with Ulster Bank for more than 10 years and also has his own small suckling farm, highlighted current trends in the farming sector in Northern Ireland at the launch of the 155th Balmoral Show this week.

“The milk price has improved over recent months, to the stage where farmers have reached a breakeven point within their businesses,” he said.

McKervey also added that there is a prospect of dairy markets strengthening further over the coming months.

“The very poor weather has resulted in the spring flush of milk not materialising this year.

Dairy markets are very much supply-demand driven,” he said.

According to McKervey, it is the increased efficiency levels that are being achieved by milk producers that is making the real difference.

He said: “The sustained use of sexed semen is helping to produce excellent quality replacement heifers on dairy farms.

“We are also seeing tremendous improvements in the quality of the beef coming from the milk sector.”


Beef prices look set to remain strong throughout 2024. This will help to sustain turnover levels on both finishing and sucker farms.

“The same can also be said for sheep prices.

“The only concern here would be the possible impact of lamb imports from New Zealand and Australia coming on to the British market later in the year,” Mc Kervey added.

He also outlined that recent months have seen a significant drop in the feed prices paid by pig producers.

“This welcome trend is helping to significantly boost profit margins on these farms. The poultry industry continues to perform well.”

“The free range egg sector is, probably, the most profitable profit centre within agriculture at the present time.

“Egg packers in Great Britain continue to source eggs from Northern Ireland. In tandem with this, egg producers are being offered longer and more sustainable supply contracts,” McKervey added.