Ireland’s three main banks have given the IFA a firm commitment that they will support farmers in all sectors this year, according to Farm Business Chairman Tom Doyle.

He recently led a series of meetings between IFA’s Commodity Chairmen and the three banks: AIB, Ulster Bank and Bank of Ireland.

According to Doyle continued support for farming from the banks over the short and medium term will be critical to the development of the sector.

He said at the start of 2015, a number of agri sectors, particularly dairy, pigmeat and tillage, are facing a challenging year with a difficult price outlook, while the drystock sector continues to cope with low overall profitability.

Each banking organisation was challenged by the IFA on its plans for the sector; the products they are offering farmers; the flexibility to help farmers cope with volatility; and the need for their products to be priced competitively.

“It was made clear to the banks that they must take a proactive approach in contacting farmers who may be under particular cashflow pressures in 2015, and in supporting them through what will be a short-term period of difficulty,” Doyle said.

He is also urging farmers to take steps now to look at their cash flow situation and to get in touch with their banks now if they foresee pressures later in the year.

“By doing this, they can work out the best approach to take,” he said.

“Each of the banks has given us a firm commitment that they will support farmers in all sectors, and I would say to farmers not to be afraid to make that approach, and to make it early.”

Doyle also said that greater price competition is still needed within the Irish banking sector and the banks must take steps to offer competitively priced products and to minimise costs to farmers, such as the cost of moving banks, or accessing loan products from a bank which may not be their core bank.

He added that farmers looking for credit should come prepared, with all relevant information, but also be confident to negotiate the best rate that they can.