Stormont’s Agriculture Minister has been asked to “act urgently” after “shocking” statistics revealed that borrowing by farmers had rocketed by an average £4,000 to almost £39,000 over the past five years.
Minister Michelle McIlveen issued figures recently which showed that between 2010 and 2015 average farm business borrowings had risen from £34,547 to £38,657 – a rise of £4,110 per farm.
In explaining her figures, the Minister said they are the latest available figures and are based on farm accounts collected as part of the Northern Ireland Farm Business Survey.
The figures were released in response to an Assembly Questions by UUP North Antrim MLA Robin Swann who is also a member of the Stormont Committee on Agriculture and a Past President of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster as well as Ulster Unionist Party Chief Whip.
Speaking about the figures released by the minister response, Mr Swann said: “These are truly shocking statistics, not just the levels of borrowing, but also the increase of more than £4,000 in that borrowing figure over the past years.
“There is a real need for the minister and her department to act urgently and put in place financial measures which ease the cash strain on our farmers.
“If a realistic and workable policy is not put in place soon and implemented as soon as possible, then there is the real danger we could see more people leave the much-needed farming sector because it is just too costly to run farms.
“There is also the added danger that farms may have to be sold to pay off borrowing debts. I strongly urge the Minister to take careful heed of these shocking figures and act with haste.”