IFA President Eddie Downey has said that the planned investment by the Government in lending to the SME sector must include the primary agriculture sector.

Mr Downey said, “Farming is a capital-intensive sector and farmers must constantly reinvest in their business to maintain and improve the efficiency of their operations. The achievement of Food Harvest 2020 growth targets will require huge investment at farm level, with an estimated €1.5 billion of investment by dairy farmers alone required to increase output by 50% in the next five years”.

He said, “The importance of capital investment on farms was highlighted in last week’s announcement of proposed funding under TAMs for investment across all farming sectors of almost €400m between now and 2020 in Ireland’s draft Rural Development Plan”.

IFA Farm Business Chairman, Tom Doyle said, “Given the structure of farm enterprises, bank finance will continue to be a key component of farmers’ business plans. It is critical, therefore, that the banking sector provides access to credit, at a competitive rate, to the farming sector. The proposal for Government investment in the SME sector through the banking sector is a practical support measure”.

He concluded, “During the downturn, the agriculture sector has maintained its very strong repayment record for bank borrowings, and has demonstrated significant output and employment growth throughout. As the economy recovers, Government support for the sector through reducing the cost of borrowing through the commercial banks will prove an important support to facilitate further growth and expansion of the sector”.