The agriculture sector continues to comprise the largest share of gross new SME lending, with more than €173m lent out by Irish banks during the last quarter of 2013.

This is according to the Central Bank, which issued its Business Credit and Deposits Q4 2013 report this morning.

Overall the Central Bank has noted credit to small businesses in all sectors in Ireland has continued to decline both annually and quarterly. It said total gross new lending of €24,5bn advanced to SMEs was down slightly, 3.1 per cent, on 2012 levels.

The agriculture sector has the largest share of new SME lending during the quarter, followed by business and administrative services at €121m. Of note, the report found credit advanced to the agriculture sector was 1.4 per cent lower on an annual basis at the end December 2013.