Irish farmers and Agri and rural businesses will soon be able to access €200m fund at low interest rate loans, EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has announced.
Commissioner Hogan said the fund is aimed at driving improvements in the dairy sector in post-quota Europe, for helping young farmers and helping establish rural businesses.
“Our farm sector and our rural areas have fallen on hard times – but there’s money out there which can help us leave those times behind, if we’re smart enough to reach out for it,” Commissioner Hogan said.
The fund, which is being provided by the EIB, will be rolled out at Member State level with each country’s banks providing the terms of the loan.
However, interest rates will be lower than normal loans and could be as low as 1.5%. Commissioner Hogan cited a funding programme which was used in Romania.
“So overall, in effect we can potentially turn one euro of public money into two euros, three euro or more. This is surely worth doing,” the Commissioner said.
The minimum amount which can be loaned out to an individual is expected to be €40,000 and while there are particular focus areas, banks will be instructed to deal with each application on a “project by project” basis.
Conor Mulvihill European affairs director with the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) welcomed the announcement.
“From an agri co-operative perspective, this funding can and should be used my our enterprise model, to fuel investment to drive our farmer owned dairy industry to meet the challenges and opportunities it faces post quota,” Mulvihill said.
“But even more importantly than those big investments, the fund has the potential to drive generational renewal in Irish agriculture; helping to invest in getting young people in our industry, helping our farms and businesses invest to embrace the key sustainability agenda; it can help the possibility of finance to help start up rural cooperatives to get on their feet to feed into the economic recovery of the Irish countryside,” he added.