Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has urged Ulster Bank to continue to support their family farm customers.

The Minister met with Ulster Bank chief executive Jane Howard on Wednesday, following the bank’s decision to start exiting the Irish market.

“In terms of the agriculture sector, I impressed upon the bank to continue to support their family farm customers with whom the vast majority have performing loans,” Minister McConalogue said.

“The strength and resilience of our agriculture sector is based on very low debt levels but the continued access to finance is key in delivering on our ambitions for the sector.”

Difficult situation

Ulster Bank confirmed it will be continuing its participation in State-backed schemes, in particular its intention to proceed with investment loans under the highly popular Future Growth Loan Scheme.

Minister McConalogue described the banks plan to exit as a difficult situation for many customers and stressed the need for continued communication between Ulster Bank, its customers and its staff in the coming weeks and month.

I also stressed the need to protect, where at all possible, the branch network footprint

“It is crucial that the immediate servicing of customers continues – which Ms Howard confirmed would happen – and she assured me that the bank has capacity to continue to lend to their customers.”

“I also stressed the need to protect, where at all possible, the branch network footprint.”

Secure conditions

The Minister highlighted that the terms of loans and mortgages cannot be changed if the customer continues to meet the conditions of the loan regardless of the outcome of the Ulster Bank process.

“I am pleased to have had the opportunity to engage with Jane and her agriculture officials on the bank’s decision to exit the Irish market.

“I will continue to keep in communication with Ulster Bank to ensure that issues important to farmers and the agri-food sector are fully represented in the time ahead,” Minister McConalogue concluded.

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