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UK: Banks offer to help flood-hit farmers

Banks and finance companies are offering help for flood-hit farmers, businesses and communities. The Lloyds Banking Group has announced a £250m fund to provide fee free lending for businesses and farmers, as part of a range of measures for those affected by the floods across Britain.

The fund opened across Britain on Wednesday (12 February). Businesses can apply through the Lloyds Banking Group network of branches and business centres.

The fund is designed to support the working capital needs of SMEs and farmers. It will allow them to set up, extend, or renew overdrafts and loans free of arrangement fees.

It also aims to help businesses manage their way through the ongoing crisis, for example by helping farmers fund food and shelter for livestock.

The fund aims to help any businesses that are currently unable to trade and those that are trying to get back on track, said a Lloyds Banking Group media statement.
"This announcement is in addition to a range of support already being provided by the group, for businesses and individuals across affected regions," it said.

"For affected businesses, we have been providing immediate support by increasing overdrafts, waiving fees and providing loan repayment holidays."

Meanwhile, HSBC said was offering increased flexible financial support to agricultural customers who had been impacted by the floods.

Antonio Simoes, head of HSBC in the UK, said: "We understand the huge strain the floods are placing on our business and personal customers in affected areas."We want to make sure we are providing the support that they need now and in the future.

"We recognise that the consequences of the floods will be long lasting and we will continue to provide the financial support and flexibility our customers need."

HSBC would provide increased financial flexibility to it customers, including fast-track credit acceptance, and loan and overdraft extensions. Mr Simoes said the bank would also lend to customers according to their needs rather than being constrained by any overall cap.

"We will consider a loan repayment holiday of up to 3-months. We will extend flexibility to waive or reduce arrangement fees on loans and overdrafts. "We will remove limits on emergency payments for insurance customers to ensure they receive immediate support to repair flood damage."

Independent broker and Devon broker farmer Robert Joy, of HBV Capital, said his clients were under "extreme stress" from the pressure the floods were putting on their businesses.
"I am seeing farmers who are – understandably - becoming increasingly negative as their confidence and attitudes are badly affected.

"Farmers are very adaptable and resilient, but these are very challenging times."
Asset finance firm Hitachi Capital has set up an emergency fund at zero percent interest to support flood stricken farmers in meeting unforeseen costs.

Further short term solutions were also available to help with existing financial commitments, in order to manage cash flow and help farmers retain a clean credit history, it said.

Hitachi head of risk Gavin Wraith-Carter said: "Cash flow is king for many farmers, and we want to offer help and support to the industry in funding unforeseen capital expenditure needs."

Hitachi had allocated £4 million of short term funding at zero percent interest to assist farmers who needed to replace or invest in equipment required as a result of the flooding.

Mr Wraith-Carter said the full cost of interest during this period would be covered by Hitachi.
"In the short term we are also able to provide immediate financial assistance where cash flow issues have arisen through a number of solutions.

These included three month repayment holidays where required. "In these situations all normal fees will be waived," said Mr Wraith Carter.

By Johann Tasker, Farmers Weekly

World Poultry

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