Department considering new €15,000 liquidity loans for dairy farmers

The Department of Agriculture has commissioned a report into the feasibility of providing loans of up to €15,000 to struggling farmers.

The proposal stems from a recent agreement in Europe in relation to a further package of measures for the struggling dairy and pigmeat sectors.

Among these was the making available of more flexible state aid support.

It will now be possible for farmers (SMEs) to access temporary finance up to a maximum amount of €15,000 per farm per year in circumstances where they either:

(i) make a commitment to freeze or reduce production compared to a given reference period, or

(ii) use the funds to bridge a liquidity gap.

Aid as provisionally envisaged would be granted in the form of direct grants, loans or guarantees in the case of freezing/reducing production, and in the form of loans or guarantees in the case of liquidity assistance (remunerated in the form of an interest payment).

The latter could also be provided in grant form if accompanied by a commitment to freeze or reduce production. Interaction and discussion with the Commission is ongoing in respect of finalising the details of such provisions.

 

The Department says it has no plans to avail of the option to provide national funding to freeze or reduce milk supply compared to a given reference period.

However, on the question of liquidity, the Department is at present commissioning an ex ante appraisal to examine the merits of including a provision for financial instruments in its Rural Development Programme.

‘Greater urgency needed’

IFA National Dairy Chairman Sean O’Leary called on Minister Creed to show greater urgency in implementing a state aid funded scheme to relieve dairy farmers’ cash flow pressures from superlevy and merchant credit, as some co-ops announce further milk price cuts for April.

O’Leary said that, as well as lobbying co-ops to share the pain and reduce costs, the National Dairy Committee had lobbied government as well as opposition TDs on state aided funded cash flow relief in the last couple of weeks, and found them very receptive.

“We know little can be done about the global dairy market slump, and the EU production management suggestions from some quarters simply don’t stand up to scrutiny.

“However, the EU’s recent permission to member states to exceptionally use state aid to provide short-term interest-free or low-cost loans can be used by the Minister to give dairy farmers a 1 to 2-year repayment suspension on their superlevy fines, their merchant credit debt, and any other cash flow demand on their farms,” he said.