Independent TD Mattie McGrath has expressed his deep concern at reports that US based Cerberus Capital Management is set to ramp up repossessions of several hundred farms in rural Ireland. Deputy McGrath was speaking after the Irish Independent Farming Section broke the news that that as many as 200 farmers may be affected since the sale of a €2.5bn Ulster Bank loan portfolio to US ‘vulture fund’ Cerberus last October:
“This is very distressing news and will be received with absolute horror in rural Ireland.
On the same day that the Minister for the Gaeltacht and Rural Affairs is announcing grants to renovate rural properties for first time buyers, we have news that the several hundred farming homes are under direct threat.
This is absolutely outrageous and it must be combatted with every available legislative or regulatory tool at our disposal.
The average farm income for 2016 remained at €26,000. When you couple that with the disastrous year that farmers in the pig, cereal, tillage and pig sector have had, then the situation is really quite worrying.
I will be calling on the Ministers for Finance, Agriculture as well as Rural Affairs to consider creating a cross-departmental task force to deal with this issue and to put in place a suite of measures that will prevent the predicted repossession levels.
One of the immediate tasks will have to be a review of the higher than average interest rates that are being charged on new loans to the farming sector. How can families increase their expansion or output if they cannot access loans without being penalised?
This is a vicious cycle that must be broken in order to give farming families across rural Ireland some hope of recovery in 2017,” concluded Deputy McGrath.