DUP West Tyrone MLA Thomas Buchanan says access to finance is a serious problem for farmers suffering cash flow problems due to the impact of unforeseen circumstances such as outbreaks of bovine tuberculosis.
At a meeting of the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee on Tuesday (September 24) to discuss the “financial crisis in farming,” Mr Buchanan said bovine TB, coupled with banks’ inflexibility was pushing some farmers close to the edge.
“It seems to be a problem with constituents that I have who are in the farming community and there is a difficulty at times with cash flow that they had and maybe if there’s a farmer and they’re closed to TB and they can’t get their cattle sold and it creates a serious problem for them and they normally find that whenever that happens the bank puts the screws on them and obviously they can’t get a slight extension to their overdraft,” he said.
Mr Buchanan - addressing the Committee and bankers from First Trust - said: “There doesn’t seem to be the flexibility there that is needed from the banks.”
He said he appreciated banks needed to be careful in their lending but called also for short term flexibility to allow farmers time to get their product and main source of income - i.e. their herds - to market and sold.
The ‘crisis’ affects one of the largest sources of private sector employment in Northern Ireland, which whilst more important to the local economy than its counterpart across the Irish Sea, is suffering from the lowest productivity rates of any sector here.