Six credit unions launch new farm loans

By Stephen Cadogan

Six credit unions across Munster are to launch farmer loan packages.

In Co Cork, Skibbereen and Bandon Credit Union’s ACRE will offer unsecured loans up to €50,000, or larger amounts for secured lending.

With more than €50 million available for local lending, the finance can be used for stocking, reclamation, purchase machinery, cash flow, and building which will allow farmers to diversify and scope out opportunities for their business.

The ACRE loan package, being launched today, includes a farming-specific software risk evaluation tool called Visualyze.

It analyses all relevant up-to-date market and borrower information, to allow the credit union work with the farmer to develop a business plan and projections.

ACRE offers flexibility to match repayments to farm cash-flow.

The loans can also be paid off early without penalty, and free life cover is also offered.

Skibbereen and Bandon Credit Union CEO Donal O’Driscoll said; “Although Skibbereen Credit Union has been offering finance to farmers for almost two decades, it has become obvious that today’s farmer requires more help and support when planning for the future.

“Raising sufficient capital is still a major problem facing farmers who want to progress. Many farmers are excellent at the operational side of the business, but financial management can often be less thought out, due to time constraints. This platform will help the farmer to apply figures around the vision he or she has for the future.

“Farming is an integral part of the communities we work with, and we are proud to broaden our offering to our local farming community with ACRE and add value to our services while also providing superior service and quick approval.”

ACRE will be launched this evening (Thursday, March 8) at the Copper Grove in Bandon at 8pm by County Mayor Declan Hurley, and farmers are welcome to attend.

Meanwhile, credit unions in Clare and West Limerick are launching lending solutions farmers under the brand name Cultivate, following Co Galway credit unions that piloted this branded farm loan offering a year ago.

The five credit unions joining Cultivate are the Cois Sionna Credit Union, Askeaton, Co Limerick; Derg Credit Union in Scarriff and Killaloe; Ennistymon Credit Union; Kilrush Credit Union; and St Francis Credit Union, Ennis. Co Galway credit unions in Ballinasloe, Gort, Loughrea, and Tuam already offer Cultivate loans.

In the first nine months of the initiative, 350 farmers have borrowed €5.5m.

Credit unions are a not-for-profit movement with all profits going to support the community and union members.

Cultivate project manager Brendan Heneghan, a former Regional Manager with Teagasc, said of the consultation process that led to Cultivate: “The IFA have been particularly supportive, convening a focus group of farmers to give their views.” The Cultivate farm loan package will offer up to €50,000 unsecured for working capital, livestock purchase, farm development, farm machinery purchase,or start-up finance for young trained entrants to farming.

The term will be up to seven years.

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