NatWest and RBS have made £500m available to farming businesses since the launch of the Funding for Lending scheme in August 2012. In October Farmers hit by continuous wet weather and flooding last year were offered extra facilities including a fee free temporary overdraft or interest only loan for six months. Loan repayment support is also available through reduced repayments or capital repayment holidays.
Ian Burrow, Head of Agriculture and Renewable Energy at NatWest, said: “The last 12 months have hit farmers hard, with the wet weather from last season followed by such devastating snow and continuous rain at the beginning of this year.
“This is a vital industry and as a bank we know it is crucial for us to show support for farmers in one of the most difficult times for the sector.”
The weather has proved catastrophic for all forms of farming. Many livestock farmers have suffered consecutive blows, with poor weather last year affecting fodder production and forcing them to buy in more concentrates. This has continued into 2013 with cold conditions holding back the growth of spring grass.
The heavy snow in March also hit sheep farmers who had already started lambing, and the loss of lambs is expected to result in lower sales revenue from June onwards.
The Government announced on 18 April that it would help English farmers with the cost of the disposal of thousands of livestock killed by the blizzards at the end of March. But the National Farmers Union has warned that while farmers had done everything possible to prepare for poor weather, some could still be driven out of business.
Arable farmers suffered lower yields and quality of crops in 2012, and although some managed to command higher prices depending on how they sold their produce, many have suffered lower revenue streams as they sold produce through the autumn to the spring.
The outlook for 2013 also looks poor: crops sown for 2013 are patchy and significantly behind their normal growth stage for the time of year, and spring sowing has been delayed and likely to result in lower yields.
Support for farmers
RBS Group has a long history of supporting the agricultural industry and has dedicated, independently accredited specialists on hand to provide advice and support. Customers wanting more information should contact NatWest on 0800 092 9116 or RBS on 0800 073 0264.
Burrow said: “Whatever your situation, it is always better to approach your bank sooner rather than later – we won’t be able to help if we don’t know. Agriculture remains an important sector to the bank and we will be keen to assist, where we can.”
Ulster Bank has also launched a Weather Fund to support farmers in Northern Ireland hit by the recent severe snow. The £10m fund was designed to provide immediate assistance to enable farmers to buy additional fodder, cover lost income and allow farms to continue trading.
Ellvena Graham, Head of Ulster Bank Northern Ireland, said "The last few weeks has been extremely difficult for many farmers, putting significant stress on them emotionally and financially. We know they need cash flow support to help them get through this period and we are here to help them.
"Northern Ireland has a strong farming tradition and we want to play our part to help our farming customers get back on their feet. This funding is being made available to help farmers impacted by the weather with their day-to-day operating costs and to enable them to get to the point where they can rebuild afterwards."
Martine Hanna, of Ulster Bank’s Specialised Relationship Management (SRM) team, helped one dairy farming client to borrow £19,000 from the Fund to buy feed for the cows and fuel to maintain the day to day working of the farm.
John Turkington, Head of SRM NI, said “Martine working together with out colleagues in Credit means that the customer is now in a much stronger position.”
Ulster Bank also made a donation of £50,000 to Rural Support, a charitable organisation which works with the farming community.
For more information on the Ulster Bank Weather Fund please contact 0845 366 5592.
Where more than money was required, RBS Group staff have even turned their hand to looking after livestock to help farming customers
Jane Gelling, Associate Director in Business Management & Support for RBS International on the Isle of Man, and her husband Geoff recently helped out local farmers by accommodating sheep and lambs in their field, and sheltering sheep that had been buried in snow for five days in their garage.
“We spent until about two in the morning bottle-feeding them with lamb milk and pushing hay under their noses,” she said.
Gelling ended up looking after a flock of more than 70 sheep – slightly different from her day job in the Douglas branch. “We had 14 sheep in the garage. Nine were fit enough to be taken up to the field after two or three days of intensive care, and three more after about a week. It took the final two sheep three weeks to be fit enough to be moved. 'They are all doing really well', she said.
“We have also had 20 ewes with 40 lambs taken from a snow covered farm to our land. That is a great sight, all skipping along nicely.”