The government is called upon to step in and prevent the sale of Ulster Bank’s loan portfolio to a “vulture fund”.

Tim Cullinan, chairman of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), said some 20,000 farmers who deal with the bank would be “left behind” if the bank’s loans were sold.

“It is estimated that there are 10,000 farmers who have borrowed from Ulster Bank, and another 10,000 with current account facilities,” Cullinan said.

Ulster Bank must pledge not to sell its loan portfolio to a vulture fund, which would leave these farmers completely dry. The government must step in and prevent this from happening.

The bank’s parent company NatWest (UK-based) is reportedly considering shutting down Ulster Bank due to the effects of Covid-19 on its income and profits.

A decision on the future of Ulster Bank in Ireland is expected in the very near future.

Rose Mary McDonagh, chair of the IFA Farm Business Committee, said if Ulster Bank pulls out of the Irish market, it must first help existing customers switch to another full-service lender.

Ulster Bank needs to help its customers migrate to one of the state’s other mainstay banks.

“Borrowers who repay to a vulture fund have difficulty accessing new financing elsewhere because the fund will not release the security they hold… It is neither appropriate nor appropriate to transfer loans to vulture funds” McDonagh explained.

“The departure of Ulster Bank would be another crippling blow to competition in the industry. Questions should be asked of all stakeholders in the banking sector as to why the trend of less competition is allowed to continue unabated, ”she added.