The value-added of financial instruments and their role for boosting investments in agriculture, agro-food and the rural economy was at the centre of discussions at a macro-regional seminar in Rome today. More than 110 participants from 12 Member States, including experts from managing authorities, bankers, investors, consultants, and guarantee fund managers, witnessed a lively set of presentations, sharing experience on the management and implementation of financial instruments (loans, guarantees and equity funds) for agriculture and rural businesses, co-funded by the EU via the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).
In his opening speech, the European Commission's Aldo Longo (Director for aspects of rural development & research): "European and world demand for quality food is increasing, so is the pressure on our farming sector to deliver. This is a new era of development, which places farmers at the crossroads for investments decisions – they have to improve their assets and performance now, to be able to respond tomorrow. And in order to do this they need to be helped by member states and through financial instruments (FI). Achieving leverage, reducing pressure on public and EU budgets, as well as addressing farmers' needs is crucial to the success of FI supported through EU rural development funds (the EAFRD). Member States with regional programmes may also opt for multi-regional FI operating at national level, thus benefiting from larger volumes and streamlined implementation. DG AGRI considers any programme modification introducing financial instruments as a priority." Mr Longo also announced the publication of new guidelines on ex-ante methodology, drafted by DG AGRI and the EIB (fi-compass). He also stressed the efforts of DG AGRI and the EIB (fi-compass) to launch a specific study on price volatility and financial instruments under the EAFRD.
His statements were echoed by senior officials from the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, outlining Italy's approach towards Financial Instruments, and farmers' views were expressed by representatives from COPA-COGECA and Italian farm unions. The meeting also heard examples from different Italian regions, from Lithuania and Hungary, with input also coming from experts from the European Investment Bank, the European Investment Fund and the European Commission.
Underlining the importance of this conference and targeted coaching to managing authorities offered by fi-compass, the EIB's Luca Lazzaroli (Director General) said: "The goal of fi-compass is to offer a starting point and learning opportunities that enable managing authorities and their partners to better understand Financial Instruments and to guide the ground work. These types of assistance from the EIB Group can help managing authorities make informed decisions about moving forward with financial instruments using not only the EAFRD, but all European Structural and Investment Funds”.
The seminar in Rome followed similar events in the past 12 months in Madrid, Dublin, Vienna and Riga. The next such conference will be a macro-regional seminar in London in October 2016, followed by the 2nd European conference on Financial instruments under the EAFRD in Brussels on 25 November 2016. Registrations for both of these events will open in September 2016. Presentations and video of today's event will be posted on the conference website shortly.