Calls for extension of farmer repayments moratorium

There have been calls for banks to extend the moratorium on farmers’ repayments into the traditional “settling up” period in the autumn.

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has said that the current end date for the hold on repayments of June 30 will have to be extended to cater for the ongoing impact of Covid-19.

Shane O’Loughlin, the association’s farm business chairperson, noted that the measure had reduced the financial pressure on farmers who saw significant falls in their incomes due to the pandemic.

However, he pointed out that many farmers payed bills and debts in autumn, and that the real financial pressure may not be felt until then for these farmers.

“By then, under the current arrangements, it will be too late to apply for this moratorium and many farmers may find themselves under financial pressure with no moratorium available,” O’Loughlin highlighted.

“Milk and beef prices have fallen due to the pandemic and though the full effects of the fall in milk price may not be fully felt until after current peak production, there is no doubt whatsoever that the fall in milk price would severely impact dairy farmer incomes,” the ICMSA farm business chairperson argued.

He noted that this is particularly true “in a context where up to 50% of annual income is earned in the four peak production months of March through June”.

The full extent of the hit may not be apparent until autumn, while sellers of cattle continue to suffer from low prices.

“Given this reality, we are calling on the pillar banks, along with their representative body, Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), to accommodate and protect their farming customer base and extend the June 30 deadline,” O’Loughlin said.

He concluded: “Farming is a year-round occupation with a seasonal payment schedule and it is essential that farmers are not disadvantaged due to their payment schedules.”