Bank of Ireland UK host Guild members

William Thompso,n Head of Agri Bank of Ireland UK, with Guild Secretary Michele Filippi and Guild Member Deborah Cummings, Ulster Farmers' Union
William Thompso,n Head of Agri Bank of Ireland UK, with Guild Secretary Michele Filippi and Guild Member Deborah Cummings, Ulster Farmers' Union

Bank of Ireland UK today hosted a breakfast seminar for members of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists on what marks the start of the Bank’s Enterprise Week which takes place from Friday 13th – Friday 20th November.

Under the theme, ‘Let’s Connect’, Bank of Ireland UK will host a series of events across Northern Ireland, including a number of agri food seminars involving key stakeholders from the supply chain.

Ian Sheppard, Regional Director Business & Corporate Banking Northern Ireland, Bank of Ireland UK, said: “We were once again delighted to welcome the Guild of Agricultural Journalists and to have the opportunity to discuss the financial challenges many primary producers are experiencing and re-emphasise Bank of Ireland UK’s strategic commitment to the agri food sector in Northern Ireland.”

Members of the Guild heard presentations from Alan Bridle, UK Economist, Bank of Ireland UK who provided his analysis on the economic outlook for the year ahead and also William Thompson, Head of Agri NI, Bank of Ireland UK, who outlined the importance of financial planning in a volatile market place.

Alan Bridle said: “The resilience of farming and agri-food in general will again be tested in 2016 as the sector continues to be buffeted by a combination of international market pressures and intense price competition at home. The balance of purchasing power has tilted firmly in the direction of the consumer at the expense of the producer, reinforcing the relentless drive for greater efficiency and productivity.

“With some recovery in real incomes, the regional economy should continue to post modest growth next year of between 1.0 and 1.5%, despite global headwinds for a number of our manufacturing exporters and the constraints on public spending. With the ECB contemplating additional monetary stimulus, there seems little prospect of significant relief on the euro exchange rate in the near term.”

William Thompson added: “A combination of increased global supply, a weak euro, a reduction in exports to China, an extended Russian import ban and the abolition of EU milk quotas have all resulted in significant downward pressure on farm gate returns for many farmers. To mitigate against these volatile market trends, the importance of business planning, tax planning and re-investment of farm profits over a three to five year period is vital to ensuring the long term viability of all farm businesses.

“Whilst the ongoing challenge for farmers or small food processors is to focus their efforts on aspects of their business within their control and strive to increase margins through technical efficiency, the long term sustainability of many businesses, particularly dairy enterprises, will be reliant on an uplift in farm gate returns.

“Looking ahead, the short term outlook remains challenging for a number of sub-sectors, particularly milk producers, however as per historic market trends, we remain optimistic about the medium to long term prospects. In the meantime, through our network of Business Managers we continue to provide strong support to our agri customers through this challenging period and are proactively seeking to develop new business at every opportunity in line with our long term strategic ambition.”