The Central Bank must act immediately to deliver lower interest rates for farmers and the agri-business sector as a whole, according to Limerick-based agricultural consultant Ciaran Dolan.

“The SME sector as a whole is weighed down with excessive interest charges at the present time,” he said.

“Ireland is totally out of kilter with the rest of Europe on this issue. And it’s a problem that must be rectified as a matter of priority. Government cannot act on this matter. But the Central Bank can.”

Dolan went on to confirm that Irish agriculture must be put on a sustainable footing.

“Recent figures indicate that farmers in the north of the country are not able to generate a profit from their production-related activities. As a consequence, they are reliant on subsidies and payments from Brussels to make ends meet,” he said.

“This is not a healthy situation. Government continues to highlight the value of food exports from Ireland. But this will count for very little if Irish farmers are not able to carry out their day-to-day activities on a viable basis.”

Dolan believes that a stronger spotlight must be placed on all the input costs incurred by farmers. These include fertiliser, feed and the cost of credit.

“I support the efforts made by the IFA to have the EU Commission officially inquire into the operation of Europe’s fertiliser market. But this is an issue that has been kicking around for quite a number of years.”

Dolan said that there is a lack of competition within the Irish banking sector at the present time.

“I am also aware of the growing frustration at farm level regarding the amount of time now taken by the banks to clear business plans and to make lines of credit available.

“I think this is actually quite positive as it puts more pressure on farmers to come up with the most feasible development plans for their businesses. But the financial system is falling down badly when it comes to the high level of bank interest rates imposed on Irish farmers at the present time.”