Representatives of the main banks in Northern Ireland met with Ulster Farmers Union this week to discuss the down turn in farm gate prices and to highlight how the cash flow difficulties being experienced on farm is affecting farmers.

UFU Deputy President Barclay Bell said the meeting was an opportunity for us to highlight the current cash flow issues facing not only dairy farmers but also farmers in many other sectors in Northern Ireland, and to discuss with the banks what can be done by them to help alleviate some of the current financial pressures being faced.

Bell says overall the meeting with the banks was constructive.

It was clear that the banks had a good understanding of the issues facing their farming customers and we were encouraged by their commitment to work with their customers and help see them through this difficult time, he said.

“While we recognise that there will be some differences in approach, it was encouraging that none of the banks were ruling out the restructuring of existing facilities, extension of, or additional shorter term overdraft facilities and capital holidays on term loan repayments, where appropriate for their customers. We were also encouraged that the banks recognised that there was sometimes a reluctance for customers to approach their bank with their concerns as the outcome could mean increased fees or borrowing costs,” he said.

According to Bell both the UFU and the banks agreed that it was important that there should be effective communication between both the banks and their customers and we were given a commitment that all banks would be proactive in this area so that farmers were aware of what products are available to help ease cash flows.

“We expect in the coming weeks that the banks will individually communicate what options are available to those farmers who are struggling and similarly we would encourage any farmer experiencing financial difficulties to speak with your local bank and see what help is available.”