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    If all the Christmas trees filling up the shopping centres have made you think of starting your own forestry business, you’ve come to the right place.

    The EIB finances small and medium-sized businesses through a number of intermediaries across the world, and some of this money is earmarked for specific sectors, such as agriculture and forestry.

    One example is our ongoing project with Crédit Agricole, with whom we signed another EUR 100 million tranche this year. Crédit Agricole’s regional banks then lend this money to small and medium-sized farms and companies active in the forestry sector, for long-term projects lasting 4-15 years.

    Altogether, the EIB financed 300 000 small and medium-sized companies in Europe in 2016. These firms employ about 4.4 million people in total.

    To draw attention to the EIB’s work to fill the financing gaps that can hold back SMEs, we decided to… draw. Actually, since we wanted cartoons, and since humour clearly isn’t our strong point, we didn’t start drawing ourselves – we got someone else to do it.

    The European Investment Bank launched “The Brood” cartoon in November. In the strip, a wolf, a rabbit, a hedgehog and a bear try to solve the challenges that SMEs, and start-ups in particular, routinely face when trying to get financing. The cartoon is produced by a one-man Estonian SME, Madis Ots. You can read more about the cartoon, and see previous strips, here (and here and here).

    In the digitally advanced Estonia, by the way, the state forestry management centre encourages people to download a dedicated app, use it to find the nearest state forest, cut down their own Christmas tree and pay for it using the app, which automatically provides them with a ‘licence’ for chopping it down. Last year, 11 500 trees were thus bought from the state forest. The app encourages people to pick the trees underneath power lines that would end up being cleared anyway, or on the sides of roads, close to ditches or underneath large, older trees, where the new saplings wouldn’t have a chance to grow to their full size.

    Maybe there isn’t an app for everything yet, but if you want to start a new agriculture- or forestry-focused start-up, you’d better act soon and check out financing opportunities quickly before the market gets crowded.

    Maybe starting your own business would be a good New Year’s resolution?