Ulster Bank is strongly committed to being a long-term partner for Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector through its £1.5billion in business lending, the bank emphasised this week to members of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists.
Speaking at a briefing event hosted in the Bank’s Belfast headquarters, Ulster Bank’s Ellvena Graham said that the bank is actively supporting its customers to grow the sector, as well as ensuring the sustainable development of businesses at all stages of the supply chain.
Ellvena Graham was joined at the event in the bank’s Belfast headquarters by Chief Economist, Northern Ireland, Richard Ramsey, and Senior Agriculture Manager Cormac McKervey. Andy Mills, Regional Director, Business Banking also spoke.
Ellvena Graham spoke about Ulster Bank’s support for the agri-food sector and the importance of collaborative working between farmers and lenders as a means of sustaining the industry.
She said: “Ulster Bank has made £1.5billion available to lend to businesses this year, and agri-food is a significant target area. We have the people and the products in place to support future growth in the industry and to understand both the opportunities and challenges of expansion and export. We are determined to ensure that the future prospects for the sector remain positive.”
The event was organised as part of the build up to Ulster Bank’s principal sponsorship of the Balmoral Show (May 13-15), and was attended by members of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists as well as other members of the farming and business media.
It included a presentation by Cormac McKervey on the outlook for farming businesses, and an economic overview by Richard Ramsey.
Richard Ramsey said: “Northern Ireland’s agri-sector has had significant challenges to cope with over the past 12 months, primarily in relation to exchange rates. More generally, the global economic context has seen trade restrictions on Russia, and the ongoing uncertainty around a potential Greek default, which has introduced volatility to the market. Yet the fundamentals of a burgeoning middle class in developing countries continue to provide support for a positive long-term outlook.”
Cormac McKervey added: “Over the course of the year, we’ve been working closely with our customers to ensure that they are well prepared for the potential for volatility. Changes to the single-farm payment and the strength of the pound relative to the euro – meaning that exports to our main trading partner, the Republic of Ireland, are less price-competitive. This has presented challenges for the industry. However, farming is a business that focuses on longer–term time horizons, and we work on that basis. Our new pasture loan, and our dedicated Food & Drink proposition, are designed to assist customers in planning ahead and looking forward with more confidence. Members of the team were also the first in Ireland to receive a Certificate in Agricultural Finance, as part of the Bank’s Agriculture Accreditation Programme.”
Ulster Bank is the principal sponsor of the Balmoral Show, which takes place this year from May 13-15 at Balmoral Park. This is the seventh year of Ulster Bank’s principal sponsorship of the Balmoral Show, which it announced in 2009, following many years of being actively involved in the show.
Further information about the RUAS Balmoral Show is available at: www.balmoralshow.co.uk
Further information about Ulster Bank is available from: www.ulsterbank.co.uk