Ulster Bank is to proceed with investment loans under the Future Growth Loans Scheme (FGLS), according to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue.

The minister was speaking after he met with Ulster Bank chief executive Jane Howard today (Wednesday, February 24), on foot of the bank’s decision to start exiting the Irish market.

“This is a difficult situation for many customers and I stressed the need for continued engagement and communication between Ulster Bank; its customers; and its staff in the coming weeks and months,” Minister McConalogue said.

It is crucial that the immediate servicing of customers continues, which Ms. Howard confirmed would happen, and she assured me that the bank has capacity to continue to lend to their customers.

“I also stressed the need to protect, where at all possible, the branch network footprint,” the minister added.

The terms of the agriculture sector, he said he “impressed upon the bank the need to continue to support their family-farm customers”.

“The strength and resilience of our agriculture sector is based on very low debt levels but continued access to finance is key in delivering on our ambitions for the sector,” the minister remarked.

I was pleased to hear that the bank is continuing its participation in state-backed schemes and, in particular, that it intends to proceed with investment loans under the FGLS, for which there has been great demand from their agri-food customers.

“It’s critical to note that the terms of loans and mortgages cannot be changed if the customer continued to meet the conditions of the loan regardless of the outcome of the Ulster Bank process,” Minister McConalogue highlighted.

“I will continue to keep in communication with Ulster Bank to ensure that issues important to farmers and the agri-food sector are fully represented in the time ahead,” he concluded.