Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster has welcomed the first application approved under the new ‘Agri-Food Loan Scheme’ (AFLS).
The scheme has been developed by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and investment, Department of Finance and Personnel and Invest Northern Ireland, along with a number of local banks, in response to the difficulties faced by the agri-food sector in accessing finance.
Arlene Foster said: “The first phase of the ‘Agri-Food Loan Scheme’ is open for business and applications are now coming through for approval. We have worked hard to create a ‘one stop shop’ for producers and I commend the participating banks for their commitment in delivering the scheme, and in helping producers to access finance.
“The Executive is working to respond to the needs of local businesses and the Agri-Food Loan Scheme is a practical measure which will help firms in this important sector access the finance they need to continue to grow and contribute to the local economy.”
The first phase of the ‘Agri-Food Loan Scheme’ is open to poultry meat producers and discussions are ongoing to examine the possibility of rolling it out to other agri-food sectors.
The Minister added: “My officials are keen to engage with any agri-food sector business which can demonstrate an integrated supply chain and I would encourage agri-food producers to bring forward proposals to Invest Northern Ireland for further consideration.”
Brian Gillan, Head of Business Banking First Trust Bank commented “Being the first bank to sanction funds through the fund highlights our appetite to lend to this sector. The Agri-food loan scheme gives the finance needed for producers to invest in their poultry operations. We have considerable experience in funding poultry growers. This is an excellent opportunity for existing poultry growers to expand their current operations and for new entrants to come into this growing sector.”