Many of the farmers whose agri loans were sold on by Ulster Bank to venture capital companies have court judgements in place against them, according to ICSA General Secretary Eddie Punch.

“These judgements may give the financial institutions a little more muscle. But this is far from the end of the process,” he said.

“There is still a procedure that must be entered into which allows all parties to come to an acceptable agreement, one that meets the needs of everyone involved.”

Punch added that taking risk is part and parcel of doing business.

“But when issues relating to debt arise, the person with the outstanding loans must actively address the problem. Simply walking away and living in denial is not the answer.

Punch confirmed that ICSA will provide a bespoke support service to those of its members now affected  by the recent Ulster Bank loan sell-off.

We recently met with representatives of the private equity fund Cerberus, to whom the Ulster Bank loan book was sold, and its service arm Capita.

“Both organisations agreed that they wished to work closely with the farmers affected and that ICSA can act in a support role.

“We had previously met with the Financial Ombudsman and representatives of the Central Bank on the matter. Both assured us that all consumer rights must be protected by unregulated entities, such as Cerberus, as would be the case with a pillar bank.”

Punch said that farmers with debt problems should seek to secure independent perspective on their problems.

“And this is the role that we are happy to play on behalf of members. We want solutions to be found which will ensure the long term viability of an existing farm business. And there are a number of ways by which this can be achieved.

“But getting to this end point will require the farmers involved to actively engage in the arbitration process that must be worked through.”