Barclays bank has announced an extension of its UK Farming Loan Fund, giving small agricultural firms access to £200m of available finance.
Unveiling the additional £100m funding at The Great Yorkshire Show, the lender’s CEO, Jes Staley, said farmers would be provided with loans to invest in new technologies and to diversify into new revenue streams.
The Farming Loan Fund was initially launched in the wake of the EU referendum in June 2016 to help protect small agricultural firms from market volatility and support business growth.
Following strong uptake of the fund since the Brexit vote, the bank has claimed its £200m loan scheme will continue to support small business owners through tentative economic times.
“It’s at times like these that UK Agriculture needs a crucial boost from banks to weather any uncertainty,” said Jes Staley, Barclays CEO.
“We want to help farmers thrive over the short-term and also to plan for a strong future… The sector is critical to fueling the UK’s economy and households.”
A new cash flow finance scheme was also announced for small farming businesses, with short and long-term support to help purchase essential goods such as fertiliser and livestock, as well as business expansion plans.
Commenting on the extension of the Farming Loan Fund, Minette Batters, deputy president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), said greater support would “improve business efficiency, the take-up of new technology or to diversify to generate new revenue streams” for small agricultural firms.
“This comes at a time where despite the tentative signs of price recovery, the sector is still far from seeing levels which will sustain a long-term and profitable farming industry,” she added.
An industry in crisis
A pressing issue facing farming businesses across Britain is the potential loss of EU workers after Brexit. The NFU recently warned government that a labour shortage, particularly the supply of seasonal workers, posed a significant threat to the survival of firms.
The number of seasonal workers on UK farms has already dropped by 17 per cent in 2017, the NFU claimed, and the organisation’s president, Meurig Raymond, said policy makers had a responsibility to deliver an effective immigration policy.
“A solution, such as a suite of visa or permit schemes, is urgently needed to avoid losing a critical number of workers that could jeopardise future harvests and food production,” he said in a statement.
“The supply of seasonal workers for the 2018 and 2019 seasons is already in danger and government must, as a priority, establish a system to enable sufficient recruitment of seasonal labour before the UK leaves the EU.”
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