‘I’m glad I can play a role in helping farmers achieve their goals’

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Farming Life catches up with Ulster Bank business manager Marie Murphy for a quick ‘Q&A’ ahead of this year’s Balmoral Show. Marie is based in Ulster Bank’s Mid-Ulster & Fermanagh Business Centre.

Tell us about your role in Ulster Bank

I have been with Ulster Bank for many years and part of the Mid Ulster & Fermanagh Business Centre team since 2004. I am a Business Manager, managing a portfolio of 75 SMEs throughout the area, and 50% of these are in the agri-food sector.

I am currently undertaking the Certificate in Agricultural Finance, awarded by Chartered Banker. As well as completing the academic modules, I will also be spending some time working with businesses in the sector including farms, marts, processors and others involved in the agri-supply chain.

This will provide great insight into the challenges and opportunities our customers face in running and growing their businesses.

The agri food sector is very important to the Northern Ireland economy and will always be needed to help feed a growing global population. Given the quality of our food, the natural environment in which it is grown and our traceability systems, local firms are well-placed to further grow and develop.

I am glad that I can play a role in helping farmers achieve their goals. Ulster Bank is continually supporting the farmer through recently launched products such as Northern Ireland’s first pasture loan and a tailored offering for the rapidly expanding food and drink industry.

Tell us about your own background in farming

I come from a dairy and beef farming background, with our home farm located on the outskirts of Cookstown.

As part of a family of all girls, I was out-and-about the yard from a young age and involved in all aspects of the farm, from milking right through to cleaning out housing and everything in between.

This background has driven my natural interest and understanding of the farming sector and has allowed me to have had first-hand experience of the issues and opportunities facing farmers today.

Tell us about your own

experiences of the

Balmoral Show

As the principal sponsor, Ulster Bank is delighted to be involved with the Balmoral Show and in my role I have the pleasure of spending at least one day per year at the show. I’ve attended the Show as a spectator many times, so I know that it’s a great opportunity to meet with people in a relaxed setting, providing a fabulous day out for the whole family – there is lots to keep all ages entertained.

In your own view, what are the prospects for the local farming sector?

Farming will remain core to the Northern Ireland economy.

We have some great farmers and they will continue to grow and adapt their businesses to meet market requirements.

Price volatility remains an issue, but I think we will see more cooperation between farmers and food processors. We already see the benefits of a single supply chain in the poultry, meat and egg sector, and it’s likely that this will spread to other sectors.

It should help both farmers and processors if both know in advance the market they are supplying and the likely returns from that market.

The farming sector here is well supported with good agriculture and food colleges, cafre advisers, and the opportunities that the Farm Business Improvement Scheme will bring. Additionally, we also have the roadmap that has been set out by the Agri Food Strategy Board. But it is important that farmers use the resources available and that they know their costs of production, particularly when considering expanding their businesses.

Why is being the principal sponsor of the Balmoral Show so important to

Ulster Bank?

Ulster Bank became the Balmoral Show’s principal sponsor in 2009, having been involved in the show for many years before that, because we saw it as a fantastic opportunity to highlight our involvement in and support for farming and food - sectors that are important to Ulster Bank.

It is also a great opportunity to meet with and talk to farmers, understanding their concerns and opportunities for the future.

We are delighted to be the principal sponsor of the show in 2015 for the seventh year. It’s an event like no other and, as they say, it really does have something for everyone.

It is a wonderful showcase for all that is good about farming and food and it is a fantastic family occasion. It’s something that the farming community very much looks forward to each year.