Head of agri at Bank of Ireland Eoin Lowry has said that he is concerned by the fact that there are more farmers over the age of 65 than under 35 in Ireland.

Currently, one third of Irish farmers are over the age of 65. In 10 years' time, half of Irish farmers are going to be over the age of 65, Lowry said.

This, he added, is going to ultimately result in a smaller and more aged industry in the future.

"We're a bank that's around for 250 years, we want to be around for another 250 years. We've backed farmers for generations, but if the demographic of the industry is changing, that's ultimately going to change how we need to bank as well," Lowry told the European council of young farmers conference on Wednesday 25 January.


Fifty years ago when Ireland joined the EU, there were 250,000 farmers in Ireland. Today, we've about half that number, Lowry said.

"If you look at predictions and we've modelled this, between 2020 ( our last census) and 2030, we are going to lose probably another 10% to 15% of farmers.

"That's about 15,000 farmers per year. Break that down into a 10-year period, that's 1,500 farmers a year that are going to leave this industry," he said.

From this Bank of Ireland modelling, Lowry explained that if there are 100 farmers in a room in 10 years’ time, eight of them are going to be under 35, another eight of them will be between 35 and 45 and a further 50 of them will be over 65 years of age.

On the one hand, Lowry said that this a major challenge, but also opens up huge opportunity for the sector.

"The sector has a huge a challenge to face in terms of how we produce food because of climate change and our footprint on the environment overall, alongside an increasing population.

"How we finance that food production is going to have to change and finally we need young people in order to change how we farm.

Embrace change

"Young people can embrace the change much easier than an older demographic," he said.

This, he said, is the greatest opportunity that's in the hands of young farmers today, because they have ability to adapt to change much more easily than an older generation of farmers.

From a banking perspective, Lowry explained that every business or sector needs generational renewal and succession in order to ensure its survival.

"If we don't support the young farmers coming in, in terms of financial support, advisory support, sectoral support, if that's not happening as an industry, well then the industry will die," he said.

40,000 farmers

Bank of Ireland banks with over 40,000 farmers, which is about one third of all farmers in Ireland.

"Any farmer who is taking out a loan today, every second one of them is doing so with Bank of Ireland," he said.

As a result of this, Lowry said that the bank has a lot of influence in the direction of finance and in the direction of the sector.