Access to Finance
The Department, in cooperation with other State bodies, continues to explore additional funding mechanisms for the agri-food sector and for SMEs generally:
- The ‘Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland’ (SBCI) was established by the Government to deliver lower cost, long-term, innovative and accessible funding to Irish SMEs (including farmers), through its ‘on-lending partners’. The features of the SBCI’s products, including its ‘Agriculture Investment Loans’ are lower interest rates and increased repayment flexibility.
- The ‘Ireland Strategic Investment Fund’ (ISIF) has also been exploring opportunities for providing funding to the agri-food sector and in March, with Glanbia, Rabobank and Finance Ireland, they announced the creation of a new €100 million ‘Glanbia MilkFlex Fund’, which will offer flexible, competitively priced loans to milk suppliers with loan repayments that can vary according to movements in milk price.
- Financial Instruments’ (FIs) are currently being considered for inclusion in the Rural Development Programme.
There are a variety of other Government supports for investment and development, not least the Rural Development Plan which includes grant support for on-farm investments. A general grant aid rate of 40% will apply, with 60% available for young trained farmers (LINK).
- ‘Bord Bia Vantage’ is an online resource for small food businesses and summarises the supports and services for individuals and entrepreneurs looking to start a food business, looking for finance, developing a new product, looking for a distributor or exporting for the first time.
- Depending on the type of activity proposed, food SMEs may be eligible to access credit through either Microfinance Ireland or the SME Credit Guarantee Scheme, two schemes introduced by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.
- Enterprise Ireland (EI) has specialist teams and a suite of supports for businesses. EI works with high potential start ups, established SMEs and larger companies. Supports include innovation and skills vouchers, mentoring and R&D funding
- The Employment Incentive and Investment Scheme (EII) allows individual investors to obtain income tax relief on investments made into EII certified qualifying companies. The EII replaces the Business Expansion Scheme
- Start-Up Refunds for Entrepreneurs (SURE) is a tax relief incentive scheme, where those investing in their own start-up company may be entitled to an income tax refund. Depending on the size of the investment, income tax paid over the 6 years prior to year in which you invest may be eligible for the refund
- There are EU initiatives such as InnovFin (EU Finance for Innovators) and COSME (the EU programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs)
- Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) have replaced the former County Enterprise Boards. They provide information and supports for start-ups and for people exploring start-up ideas