22 March 2001
Banks to refuse restocking loans?
By Shelley Wright
SCOTS farmers whose animals are being culled to contain foot-and-mouth disease fear banks will refuse to lend them money to re-stock their farms.
Farm minister Ross Finnie and National Farmers Union of Scotland president Jim Walker have called on banks to be sympathetic while the crisis lasts.
But as a pre-emptive cull of 200,000 sheep gets under way in Dumfries and Galloway, producers are concerned that sympathy will be short-lived.
Billy Lockhart, who runs a dairy farm and sheep on a tenanted unit at Johnstonebridge near Lockerbie, said tenants with sheep felt very vulnerable.
“There is a real worry among the many tenant farmers in this area that the banks will refuse to lend them money to meet the cost of re-stocking farms later this year,” he said.
Many will have their sheep destroyed because they fall inside the 3km zones around infected farms.
And Mr Lockhart said farmers fear compensation for the slaughter would be used by banks to pay off some of the farmers overdrafts.
“Low prices in recent years have left many tenants in financial difficulties, and there are reports that the banks have been putting on pressure,” he said.
Scottish farm minister Ross Finnie has told banks that he expects them to treat farmers with sensitivity and understanding in the coming months.
And Scottish NFU president Jim Walker repeated the message when he met agricultural representatives from all the leading banks.
“We are calling on banks to act sympathetically, bearing in mind that agricultural support payments are on their way,” he said.
After delays while infected stock were disposed of the cull of apparently healthy it now believed to have started.
It is reported that more than 1300 animals at a farm at Dornock, near Annan, Dumfries and Galloway have been taken to a disinfected slaughterhouse.
Sixteen new cases of foot-and-mouth had been confirmed at 1500hrs on Thursday, bringing the total confirmed cases in the UK to 454.
Seven cases were confirmed in Cumbria, two in County Durham, Gloucestershire and Northumberland and one in Devon, Staffordshire and Lancashire.
Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage