The Scheme will be delivered jointly with a number of Northern Ireland’s banks. It will help local food producers, who form part of an integrated supply chain, to access the finance they would need to invest in the farm buildings necessary to increase supply of the primary produce for processing.
Arlene Foster said: “Over recent months, several major retailers have decided to sell only UK sourced meat products. This presents major opportunities for the local Agri-Food industry and that is why we have been working with the banks to explore the potential for an Agri-Food Loan Scheme which would enable businesses to take advantage of the opportunities that exist.”
Simon Hamilton said: “The scheme we have announced today will see the Northern Ireland Executive, working proactively with a number of our banks, to provide significant finance in the form of loans to local food producers who form part of an integrated supply chain. Discussions with the banks have been very positive and highly constructive, and we are pleased to announce that we have agreed a Memorandum of Understanding, setting out our joint commitment to deliver the Scheme.”
The first phase of the Scheme will be open to broiler producers in Northern Ireland. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, the Department of Finance and Personnel and Invest Northern Ireland are also working with the banks to roll out subsequent phases of the scheme to other Agri-Food sectors over the coming months.
Commenting on the roll out Simon Hamilton continued: “The Agri-food Loan Scheme will roll out on a phased basis and the first phase of the Scheme will open for applications next month. This first phase will be open to broiler producers and we are already working to develop subsequent phases of the scheme in respect of, pig meat, egg production, red meat and dairy.”
Arlene Foster added: “Difficulty in accessing finance was one of the issues identified in ‘Going for Growth’, the Strategic Action Plan developed by the industry led Agri-Food Strategy Board.
“Our co-operation with the banks demonstrates that we are not only listening to, but acting on, the concerns of industry. It is also an example that the Executive is working together to provide support for local businesses.
“We have worked hard to ensure that this Scheme is as straightforward as possible for producers – essentially we have created a one-stop shop. Processes within the Banks and Invest NI will be coordinated to ensure that applicants will only be required to submit one application for finance using the normal channels within the Banks.”
Simon Hamilton concluded: “Initiatives such as this are crucial as we, in partnership with our local banks, work to create a better environment for business and as we strive to ensure that local companies can make the most of opportunities for growth that arise.
“£10 million has been allocated to Invest Northern Ireland to facilitate the first phase of the Scheme this year, and the Executive has agreed to commit further funds to the Scheme should there be significant demand.”
1. Discussions have been taking place with the banks in respect of an Agri-Food Loan Scheme aimed at the Agri-Food industry. The first phase of the Scheme will be open to broiler producers and discussions are ongoing with the banks to roll the scheme out to the pig meat, egg producers, red meat and dairy sectors.
2. The Scheme will operate for a limited time only.
3. The Scheme will be delivered jointly by the banks and Invest NI. Processes within the Banks and Invest NI will be coordinated to ensure that applicants will only be required to submit one application for finance using the normal channels within the Banks. Finance will be provided by the Northern Ireland Executive by means of loans, which will be provided on commercial terms and these loans will be subordinated to bank debt. The precise application of the scheme may be adapted as it is rolled out to other sectors and this will be determined following further negotiation with the banks and those sectors.
4. Participating banks include Bank of Ireland, Barclays Bank, Danske Bank, First Trust Bank, HSBC, Santander and Ulster Bank.
5. Going for Growth can be accessed on the Agrifood Strategy Board website.