Unveiling the future of agribanking: AIB

SME Banking
29/08/2023 Interview
profile picture of Donal Whelton

Donal Whelton


Head of Agri, Food & Fisheries

In a new interview series focusing on agricultural banking, Qorus explores how financial institutions are playing a pivotal role in supporting farmers and driving sustainable growth in the agri sector. Donal Whelton, Head of Agri, Food & Fisheries at AIB, tells us about the challenges faced by farmers in Ireland and how AIB is supporting a number of inititiatives promoting sustainable agriculture and agtech innovation, in this first interview in the series.

Could you briefly provide insights into the agricultural banking landscape in your region, highlighting any unique challenges the industry has to cope with?

Agriculture in Ireland is based around family farms, with approximately 135,000 farming families. We have a grass-based production system, which is a cheap source of feed, and animals remain outdoors for 280 to 300 days per year. The sector is very much export orientated, with approximately 90% of Irish beef, sheep meat and dairy products exported to over 180 markets worldwide.

Teagasc, the national body providing integrated research, advisory and training services to farmers in Ireland, estimates that approximately 39% of farms have farm-related debt – and this is higher among dairy farmers. The sector went through a period of expansion after the abolition of dairy quotas in 2015 and has consolidated since. Overall at a national level, farm-related debt has been decreasing in recent years, as farmers pay down debt at a faster rate than taking out new borrowings.

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