There is insufficient access to finance for farmers and agri-food SMEs in Europe, Commissioner Wojciechowski said speaking at the 9th annual EU conference on EAFRD-funded financial instruments.

The unmet demand of farmers for financing by banks has reached €62bn in 2022, according to two surveys presented by Wojciechowski.

It has almost doubled since 2017, when it stood at €33bn; it now stands at €62bn.

Rejection rates have declined compared to year 2017, but average loan amounts asked by farmers have increased, leading to bigger amounts not being covered.

Loans above seven years remain difficult to obtain, the Commissioner added.

"This category accounts for 58% of the gap. The agriculture survey shows that 37% of all rejected farm loans in the EU were due to the unwillingness of the banks to expand their support to agriculture."

The Commissioner added that it is small farmers and young farmers who are mostly affected by this lack of loans and financial investment.

"EU banks’ requirements on farmers are heavy and stringent, making it very difficult for agricultural producers and young farmers to compete with other businesses from the economy, where the output may be seen on the day after the company is created.

"It is critical that the financial market opens up to financing farmers on an equal footing, and that Member States focus on the use of financial instruments in their CAP Strategic Plans," he stressed.

The European Investment Bank, who was co-organising the conference, also presented a survey about selected banks active in financing agriculture.

Gelsomina Vigliotti, vice-president of the EIB, said that the sheer scale of investment needed in the sector requires that we use the scarce public funding available wisely.