Around 3,000 Northern Ireland farmers eligible for the department's Covid-19 support payment for wool have yet to apply despite the scheme closing tomorrow (August 12).

The scheme was announced two weeks ago to support farmers after wool prices hit an all-time low as wool markets closed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots urged all those eligible to apply "urgently" after it transpired that 3,000 of the 8,600 eligible sheep farmers are still to submit their applications.

The wool scheme closes on August 12, at midnight.

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots said: “On July 29, I announced an additional Covid support scheme for sheep farmers worth £1.27 million, for those farmers continuing to feel the effects of the downturn in world markets due to the pandemic.

“The wool scheme closes this Thursday, August 12, at midnight – so I am calling on anyone eligible to apply immediately to ensure they get their payment. You can do so via a simple online form on the DAERA website.”

'Make applying a priority'

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) Hill Farming Committee chairman Nigel McLaughlin said: “Many of our members endured significantly lower wool prices because of the effect Covid-19 had on the global market.

The UFU, Ulster Wool and the National Sheep Association lobbied hard to secure the £1.27 million support package for the sector to help alleviate the losses sheep farmers incurred from wool sales, and with such a short window, I urge them to make applying a priority.

"This is particularly important if members need agents to complete the form on their behalf.

“Farmers must have completed the 2019 sheep annual inventory to be eligible to claim and the application process is a very straightforward online form which should be pre-populated.

"Those who are entitled to support will receive £1.40 (70p/kg) for ewes and ewe lambs, that were put to ram during 2019.”

How can I apply for the wool payment?

Those eligible can apply for the Covid-19 wool payment on the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ (DAERA) website.

Payments will be made to sheep farmers based on the number of ewes they recorded on their holding in the 2019 Sheep Inventory. As a result, only sheep farmers who completed the 2019 Sheep Inventory are eligible.

Further information and help is available here on the DAERA website or by calling 0300-200-7848.

DAERA staff can be contacted on 0300-200-7848 to help with any queries you may have with the application.

Payments are expected to begin by the end of August.