Fianna Fáil TD for Carlow – Kilkenny Bobby Aylward TD has called on the Government to take action to end the practice of banks overcharging farmers on agricultural loans.Fianna Fáil TD for Carlow – Kilkenny Bobby Aylward TD has called on the Government to take action to end the practice of banks overcharging farmers on agricultural loans.

Deputy Aylward made the comments after the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney admitted that Irish farmers are currently paying over the odds for agricultural loans as compared to their European counterparts. The admission was made during a Fianna Fáil Dáil debate regarding the plans the Government has in place to ensure Irish farmers have access to European Investment Bank funds for the advancement of agriculture and rural development.

“It will come as alarming news to Irish farmers with the Minister confirming that the interest rates on the current volume of lending by Irish banks into agriculture are not as competitive as it should be. In other words, banks are overcharging farmers on loans” said Deputy Aylward.

“Even more startling, the Minister stated that the costs of Irish agricultural loans are overpriced compared to our European counterparts. Minister Coveney said “Irish banks currently make a lot of money available to agriculture, the competitive nature of interest rates linked to those loans does not compare favourably with other European countries”.

Deputy Aylward continued, “Farmers across Carlow and Kilkenny are already struggling with high operating costs. The Government is encouraging farmers to increase production but at the same time it is admitting that farmers are being overcharged on the loans that they need to take out in order to achieve this.

“For any new stream of European Investment funding for Irish farmers, it is a must that the vehicle to provide this new credit line provides fair interest rates at much lower levels than currently offered by domestic pillar banks. Funds need to be delivered at the most local community level directly to farmers.

“I am calling on the Minister to move swiftly to ensure that Irish farmers are given access to a new credit line at low interest rates. He must indicate immediately when this facility will be available to draw down from and what level of national exchequer co-funding will leverage this new credit line.

“It is vital that this funding source is used for new investments to generate jobs and growth in the Irish rural economy in the years ahead. The fund has the potential to regenerate the agriculture industry by encouraging young people back into the sector. It can also be used to help finance rural start-ups and agri-enterprises, which are vitally needed in the economic recovery of the rural Ireland.

“Over the past four years, Fine Gael and Labour have set about dismantling a wide range of programmes and initiatives in rural Ireland, which had been established by the previous administration. It is now more important than ever that this new EU funding model is urgently implemented to help ease access to finance for Irish farmers and rural entrepreneurs, in order to grow employment in the sector”.