Ulster Bank Highlights Its Commitment To Northern Ireland’s Agricultural Industry With £1.5billion Fund

One of Northern Ireland’s main banks has reaffirmed its commitment to the local agricultural industry highlighting its £1.5billion business lending programme.

Ulster Bank representatives declared their strong ties with the sector this week just days ahead of Northern Ireland’s big farming event, the Balmoral Show.

The bank is the principal sponsor of the show which takes place in May at the former Maze prison site.

Speaking at a briefing in the bank’s Belfast headquarters, Ulster Bank’s Ellvena Graham said the bank is actively supporting its customers to grow the sector, as well as ensuring the sustainable development of businesses at all stages of the supply chain.

She said: “Ulster Bank has made £1.5billion available to lend to businesses this year, and agri-food is a significant target area.

“We have the people and the products in place to support future growth in the industry and to understand both the opportunities and challenges of expansion and export.

“We are determined to ensure that the future prospects for the sector remain positive.”

Mrs Graham was joined by colleagues Andy Mills, regional director; Richard Ramsey, chief economist; and Cormac McKervey, senior agriculture manager.

She also spoke about Ulster Bank’s support for the agri-food sector and the importance of collaborative working between farmers and lenders as means of sustaining the industry.

Mr Ramsey highlighted the difficulties the industry had endured in the past year regarding exchange rates fluctuations.

He said: “Northern Ireland’s agri-sector has had significant challenges to cope with over the past 12 months, primarily in relation to exchange rates.

“More generally, the global economic context has seen trade restrictions on Russia, and the ongoing uncertainty around a potential Greek default, which has introduced volatility to the market.

“Yet the fundamentals of a burgeoning middle class in developing countries continue to provide support for a positive long-term outlook.”

Highlighting the challenges with market volatility Cormac McKervey said: “Over the course of the year, we’ve been working closely with our customers to ensure that they are well prepared for the potential for volatility.

“Changes to the single-farm payment and the strength of the pound relative to the euro, meaning that exports to our main trading partner, the Republic of Ireland, are less price-competitive.

“This has presented challenges for the industry.

“However, farming is a business that focuses on longer–term time horizons, and we work on that basis.

“Our new pasture loan, and our dedicated food and drink proposition, are designed to assist customers in planning ahead and looking forward with more confidence.

“Members of the team were also the first in Ireland to receive a Certificate in Agricultural Finance, as part of the bank’s Agriculture Accreditation Programme.”

Source: belfastlive.co.uk