THE scale of the cash flow crisis facing many farm businesses is now becoming apparent and in response to this situation Ulster Farmers Union President Harry Sinclair has said that urgent initiatives are needed to help producers through what is proving to be a very difficult winter.
UFU President’s Area Meetings got underway this week in Fermanagh and Armagh with hundreds of farmers attending to voice their concerns about cash flow and fodder problems. Mr Sinclair also visited farms in Fermanagh and Armagh to see at first hand the problems faced by local producers.
The UFU President said: “I am very concerned about the difficult position many of our farm businesses are now facing. Bad weather, rising costs and disappointing farm gate prices in 2012 have taken their toll and many farm businesses are now facing a very tough winter. In particular there are very serious cash flow problems on some farms. The quality, availability and price of winter fodder is compounding the problem on many livestock farms.”
Mr Sinclair said the UFU is tabling urgent proposals to alleviate some of the problems in the industry. He continued: “We have to be proactive and the UFU is proposing a range of initiatives that are badly needed to ease the pressure on our members. For example we need to be allowed to establish ‘Approved Finishing Units’ with practical rules around their operation, which could provide a desperately needed outlet for farms closed with TB.
“These farms are facing very serious cash flow problems and they need an urgent solution. We must also do something to help the farmers who have learned that their Single Farm Payment will be delayed. The UFU is proposing a mechanism so that 50% of their Single Farm Payment could be released immediately to these businesses, again to help them with their cash flow management.”
Mr Sinclair also confirmed that the UFU would be progressing these and a range of other proposals as quickly as possible with Government.
Meanwhile, Union CEO Clarke Black has told Farming Life that the UFU met with the banks over recent weeks to discuss the scale of the cash flow crisis now facing agriculture as a whole.
“We are fully aware of the challenge facing farm businesses at the present time. Our priority is to ensure that ways are found to allow producers get through the next three months,” he added.
“On the positive side livestock prices are now increasing. If businesses can get through to mid April relatively unscathed, the prospect of getting cattle out to grass and the commensurate reduction in feed costs will help improve most farm finances.”
Mr Black concluded: “It must be pointed out that the cash flow challenges confronting agriculture at the present time should be short term in nature. The general prospects for agriculture and food remain extremely positive.”
Danske Bank’s John Henning told Farming Life that his organisation is fully aware of the problems now facing both farms and agri supply businesses.
“We remain fully committed to working with individual clients on a proactive basis,” he stressed.
“I would urge farmers to talk to their banks as quickly as possible, if they foresee cash flow problems arising.”