Payments for Northern Ireland's £18 million Covid-19 farm support fund are set to begin today (Monday, September 28).

More than 11,000 livestock farms in Northern Ireland submitted their applications to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ (DAERA) Covid-19 Support Fund ahead of the September 23 closing date.

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots announced that as a result around £18.2 million would be paid out.

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The support fund for dairy, beef and sheep sectors opened for applications on September 7, 2020, with almost all - 98.5% of the 11,350 eligible farmers - submitting applications in time to receive the money.

Minister Poots said: “Earlier this year the Executive announced funding of £25 million for a Covid-19 support package – the most generous allocation made by any UK or EU administration for the agriculture and horticulture sectors during the Coronavirus emergency.

"£18.25 million 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 Covid-19 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 incoming week.

Potato applications still open

With just a few days until the closing date for applications from potato businesses, Minister Poots has encouraged those eligible to submit applications as soon as possible.

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

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

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

Potato producers will receive support for 80% of losses incurred in the period March 17 to July reflecting the actual loss in sales or value of crop remaining in store against a March reference price.

This equates to an allocation of up to up to £1.6 million from the support fund. Support will take the form of a tonnage payment (capped at £136/t) based on the loss in value of eligible potatoes during the period (March 17 to July 31, 2020).

Ornamental horticulture producers are to receive support for 80% of losses incurred from March 1 to June 30 reflecting an actual loss in accrued sales of eligible plants compared to averaged sales over the previous three years.