Irish farmers and other small and medium enterprises are paying substantially higher interest rates than their EU counterparts, according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA).
John Comer, president, said farmers are paying almost €80m per year in additional interest charges, and this needs to be addressed.
Referring to loans and financing in the farm sector, he said the uncompetitiveness of Irish interest rates relative to EU counterparts is a clear market failure or abuse, or both.
Noting widely publicised schemes, the ICMSA leader said:
“We shouldn’t have to be subsidising banks using funds designated for farmers to provide lower interest rates. If banks in other EU member states can provide lower interest rates without subsidisation, then so should ours and the Government really needs to address this matter.”
Mr Comer said the agriculture sector is a prime example of the growing phenomenon where farmers are expected to meet an already lengthy and growing list of standards in the name of environmental sustainability.
Yet, the marketplace and policymakers are failing abjectly to reward them in a way that makes them economically viable.
“The policymakers are very good at coming up with more and new environmental regulations for farming,” he said.
“But they’ve failed completely to match that with an emphasis on economic sustainability and this resulting imbalance is putting family farming in jeopardy. Without economic sustainability the whole concept falls.”
Mr Comer, addressing a recent economic conference in Dublin, said that, as far as Irish farmers are concerned, the debate has to move past just sustainability.
It must arrive at economic sustainability — a different and more complex goal. Specific measures are also needed to counter the threat presented by Brexit for the agri-food sector.
He said Budget 2018 is a perfect chance to address extreme volatility and promote investment in the sector and in rural areas.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved