Foster and Hamilton announce agri-food loan scheme

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Finance Minister Simon Hamilton, MLA have announced today that a new Agri-Food Loan Scheme will be open for business in November.

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.”