Payments totalling £190 million have been made to almost 23,300 Northern Ireland farm businesses ahead of schedule.

The figure confirmed by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) represents an increase in both value and the number of farms paid ahead of schedule compared to 2017.

In November 2017, £182.7 million in advance payments were made to 22,493 farm businesses.

The department also confirmed that 97% of farm businesses in Northern Ireland have been paid an Advance Direct Payment.

It’s the third consecutive year that record numbers of farm businesses will have received Advance Direct Payments representing 70% of their claim value.

Over 67% of farm businesses subject to land inspections are included in these numbers.

Officials said this year’s record achievement, which exceeds last year’s record of 94%, is a further endorsement of DAERA’s transition to online services, with 100% of Single Applications submitted online in 2018.

Advance Direct Payments

Advance Direct Payments could only be made on fully verified claims and the Department successfully obtained permission from the European Commission to pay a higher 70% of claim value rather than 50%.

Northern Ireland remains the only region of the United Kingdom to issue Advance Direct Payments.

Balance payments, or full payments for those unable to receive an advance payment, will be made from December 3, 2018.

Direct Payments in the UK are paid in sterling except where the farmer elects for payment in Euro by the deadline for submission of Single Applications.

The exchange rate for 2018 is has been set at £0.89281 per €1.

‘A job well done’

Ulster Farmers’ Union president Ivor Ferguson said the news would help with farm business cash flow.

“The fact that advanced payments have been made to farmers three years running and last year’s record has been bested is a credit to both DAERA and the industry.

We are often critical of DAERA, and rightly so, but I have no hesitation in saying this is a job well done.

“Again, Northern Ireland is the only region in the UK in a position to make early payments. Our system works well and reflects positively on the efforts DAERA and industry have made.

“We can’t underestimate the importance of these payments to farm businesses and the rural economy.”