MilkFlex gets national roll-out with participating co-ops

Plans are in place to make the MilkFlex loan product available through participating co-ops across Ireland, Finance Ireland has announced.

The new facility – supported by funding from the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) and Rabobank – will offer flexible, competitively-priced loans to dairy farmers with repayments linked to movements in milk price.

Facility

The new facility will build on the success of the initial MilkFlex product, which was also supported by ISIF, Rabobank and Finance Ireland.

The previous scheme provided €64 million in loans to dairy farmer members of Glanbia Co-op since launch in July 2016.

The announcement was made today at a launch event in Dublin. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, was guest of honour at the launch and welcomed the decision to make MilkFlex available to participating co-ops countrywide.

The launch has also been welcomed by the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan.

Key features of the MilkFlex product:
  • It will provide milk suppliers in the Republic of Ireland with a funding product that helps to protect cash flow from the impact of milk price volatility;
  • It will feature in-built ‘flex triggers’ that can adjust the repayment terms in response to movements in milk price and disease outbreak;
  • Repayments will also be adjusted to allow for seasonality;
  • These features combine to provide cash flow relief to farmers when most needed;
  • It will be facilitated through participating co-ops around Ireland, with Finance Ireland originating the loans backed by finance provided by ISIF and Rabobank;
  • It allows for investment in on-farm productive assets to support an existing or growing dairy farm enterprise (including dairy livestock, milking platform infrastructure and land improvement);
  • New categories, relating to milk production, are being included in the MilkFlex national roll-out that were not available in the past such as:
    → Investment in on-farm energy efficiency and renewable energy;
    → Environmental Investments;
    → Agricultural technologies that deliver on-farm efficiencies.

When first launched in 2016, MilkFlex was only available to suppliers of Glanbia.

Total applications received from Glanbia farmers were over €110 million and the product won the COGECA Business Model Innovation Award at the 2017 European Awards for Co-operative Innovation.

MilkFlex loans will be subject to underwriting criteria and the interest rate charged will be a variable rate of 3.75% above monthly Euribor, set at a floor of zero.

‘Affordable financing’

Speaking at the launch, Minister Creed said: ”I am pleased to launch the roll-out of MilkFlex nationally today, an initiative that will help suppliers cope with dairy market price volatility.

“It’s important for farmers to be able to access affordable financing, and I commend ISIF, Rabobank and Finance Ireland for making this innovative funding mechanism available to Irish dairy farmers.

It will be a valuable tool in managing income volatility and enabling farmers to build on the opportunities for sustainable growth outlined in the Food Wise strategy.

Billy Kane, chief executive of Finance Ireland also spoke, noting: ”The national roll-out of MilkFlex is a direct response to demand from co-ops across the country who saw how innovative and farmer-friendly the MilkFlex product was.”

Eugene O’Callaghan, director of ISIF said: “The national MilkFlex roll-out uses this inherent flexibility to deliver an innovative and customised solution that will help Ireland’s agri-food sector to grow and achieve the aims of the Food Wise 2025 strategy.”

Kevin Bellamy, global sector head for dairy in Rabobank, said: “Rabobank is delighted to be involved in financing the national roll-out of the MilkFlex product.”

Phil Hogan, the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, commented: “I am very pleased following the success of the Glanbia MilkFlex fund that this product is now being rolled out nationally and will provide access to flexible, competitively-priced finance for all dairy farmers in Ireland.

“The addition of new investment categories – energy efficiency, renewable energy, environmental and agricultural technologies, relating to milk production – in this national roll-out is very important.

This new model of funding for milk suppliers, which was an international first when rolled out through Glanbia in 2016, significantly mitigates the investment risks for milk suppliers.

“It will be a valuable tool in assisting dairy farmers to manage income volatility, which is particularly challenging for family farms across the EU.

“Using innovative financial instruments to help farm families across Europe is a key priority for me and I am especially pleased to see this rolled out nationally in Ireland,” Hogan concluded.

Workshops

Finance Ireland will host a series of workshops with co-ops around the country over the coming months to provide information to supplier farmers interested in making an application for funding from the product.

Applications will be assessed and approved by Finance Ireland. As with any lending application, Finance Ireland will require a clear business case in order to justify support of the lending decision.

None of the other funders of MilkFlex will play any role in lending decisions or in the provision of advice or otherwise to individual suppliers who wish to avail of a MilkFlex loan.

Subject to completion of the legal documentation, it is expected that the MilkFlex product will be available to farmers from June 2018.