Banks urged to be ‘sensitive to impact of winter’

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WITH spring yet to arrive and farm cashflows being stretched, the National Farmers Union of Scotland yesterday met banks to highlight the lasting financial impact of the recent bad weather on the agricultural sector.

Union vice-president Allan Bowie said it had called on the banks to take a “flexible and sensitive” approach in future dealings with farm customers.

The union stressed the effect that the March snowstorms had had on businesses as well the consequences of the ongoing cold weather.

Bowie said stock losses had been considerable in snow-affected parts of Dumfries and Galloway, south Ayrshire, Arran and Kintyre, and it was requiring a huge effort to keep the remaining ewes and lambs alive.

He said extra feed costs and the disposal of fallen animals had had an immediate hit on cashflows, but the full budgetary implications of stock losses might not be felt until the autumn and winter, when lambs would normally be sold.

The second coldest March on record would hit all farm types with late sowings and nil growth on autumn crops. It further compounded the difficult weather problems endured last year.

Bowie said that a members’ survey carried out late last year on bank attitudes to the 2012 weather impact had helped in the discussions with representatives of Bank of Scotland, Lloyds TSB Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland and the Committee of Scottish Bankers.

He said all the banks were committed to being sensitive to the circumstances and, where appropriate, they would look at ways of assisting viable farming customers, especially those in the hardest hit areas.

The banks reaffirmed their belief in Scottish agriculture as a good investment in the medium to long term, but stressed it was essential that farmers were proactive in approaching their bank, rather than letting any problems mount up.

“There are very few businesses which, despite best efforts, have been sheltered from the poor weather and the effects will continue to be felt for months to come,” said Bowie.

He said the union would continue to monitor the situation on members’ farms and whether farmers could gain access to lending when they needed it.

The union would also continue to work closely with the Scottish Government in identifying a support package for the sector.

“In the meantime, we would urge any farmer who is struggling not to suffer in silence. NFUS members can draw on a great deal of support and advice from their fellow farmers and union staff if they need any help or assistance.”