Coronavirus: 11,000 Northern Irish farms claim £18m in support

The scheme will issue compensation for losses incurred by NI farming businesses as a result of market disturbance
The scheme will issue compensation for losses incurred by NI farming businesses as a result of market disturbance

Over 11,000 livestock farming businesses in Northern Ireland have submitted applications to the devolved government's Covid-19 support fund.

This significant level of interest will result in total claims worth £18.2m being paid out, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said.

The financial support fund for dairy, beef and sheep sectors opened for applications on 7 September 2020, and payments commenced from Monday (28 September).

The scheme issues compensation for losses incurred by farming businesses as a result of short term market disturbance.

Rates of compensation for losses incurred have been set by the government at 100 percent or 80 percent.

Beef producers will receive support for 100% of losses incurred in the period from mid-February, while milk producers will receive 80% of losses incurred during March, April, May and June with a flat rate payment of 1.28p per litre.

For sheep producers, they will receive 100% of losses incurred by receiving a flat rate payment of £6.88 per head based on the number of eligible sheep presented for direct slaughter in NI, GB or Republic of Ireland between 22 March and 18 April 2020.

It comes as the NI Executive unveiled a £25m support package earlier this year - the most generous allocation made by any UK or EU administration for the agriculture sector during the Covid-19 crisis.

DAERA's farming minister Edwin Poots said: “£18.25m was allocated to dairy, beef and sheep farm businesses and I’m pleased to note that just over 98% have submitted claims for financial losses as a result of the pandemic.

“My officials worked tirelessly, in partnership with industry and stakeholders, to get the scheme up and running and they will now demonstrate equal effort in processing these applications to ensure payments can begin to issue this week.”

With the closing date for applications for potato businesses closing later this week, Mr Poots encouraged those eligible to submit applications as soon as possible.

He added: “Up to £1.6m is available to offset losses incurred by eligible farm businesses who specialise in supplying potatoes for processing to meet food service and hospitality industry needs.

"With the application window closing at midnight on 30 September I would again encourage those eligible to apply to do so as soon as possible.”

The Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) also urged potato producers who meet the scheme criteria to complete the online application before the deadline.

UFU deputy president William Irvine said: "It is now a matter of urgency that the first stage of the online application is completed, with a swift follow up action addressing the requirement of providing photocopies of all necessary documentary evidence."

The scheme for eligible businesses in the commercial horticulture sector will be opening in October.