‘Young farmers are not looking for a handout, just a helping hand’

Access to credit is the single biggest issue for young farmers across Europe, Matteo Bartolini, President of the European young farmers association CEJA told a recent EU conference in Dublin.

He said that banks are unwilling to lend due to the low returns in agriculture and new financial instruments are “desperately needed” by young farmers.

“Young farmers need tools to help them. We are not looking for a handout, but a helping hand to deliver public goods.”

He also said that it is not enough to just provide tools and hope that they will be taken up. “Young farmers face intimidating challenges when trying to enter the agricultural industry.”

He also said that young farmer numbers are too low, with 53% of farmers in the EU over 55 and 30% over 65.

The ageing agricultural population, he said, would see issues around food supply and this must be addressed at a European level. “Less and less young farmers presents long-term food supply issues”.

Bartolini was speaking at an EU conference in Dublin on increased financial instruments to help rural Europe.

Wilhelm Molterer, a former agriculture minister and the current Vice-President of the European Investment Bank, told the conference that over half of the EU population lives in rural areas and agriculture is crucial to Europe.

He said it accounts for 6% of the EU’s GDP and provides jobs for 50m people across Europe. The European Investment Bank, he said, through financial instruments, can offer loans for longer terms than regular banks and at lower interest rates.