Lending to small and medium enterprises by Irish banks fell by €1.4 billion, or 5%, in 2012.

Central Bank statistics show the total amount of credit advanced to "non-financial, non-property related SMEs" last year was €25.7 billion.

During the three months to the end of December lending to the sector was down by €431m, or 1.6%.

Only two sectors showed any increase in lending activity: the "human health and social work sector" and the "electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply sector".

The amount of credit outstanding from small and medium businesses also fell during the year by 2.8% to €71.1 billion.