A financial support scheme to help Northern Ireland ornamental horticulture growers with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has opened for applications today (October 15).

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots is encouraging those eligible to get their application forms in by the deadline on Sunday, November 15.

It's the final strand of the £21.4 million Covid-19 Support Scheme announced earlier this year and is expected to be worth £1.6 million to local growers.

Speaking about the scheme opening, Minister Poots said: “In the last few weeks I am proud to have seen approximately £18 million paid into the bank accounts of dairy, beef and sheep farmers to help mitigate their losses since the pandemic began in March.

Our horticulture sector may be small but is an important sector contributing more than £25 million each year to the local economy.

“The £1.6 million I’ve made available to this sector from the £25m Covid-19 support package will be a financial lifeline following the loss of sales when routes to market were closed earlier this year during this sector’s busiest selling period.”

Applications for support to those eligible in the ornamental horticulture industry will open on Thursday 15 October and close on Sunday 15 November 2020 and a link to the online application form can be found on the DAERA website.

Minister Poots concluded: “Through this financial package, eligible businesses will be able to offset some of the losses incurred as a result of the impact on trading caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

I have retained a budget of just over £7 million based on the residual funding of £3.6 million (from the £25m support package) and the £3.6 million that was reprioritised from within my Department.

"This will allow me to address additional issues and challenges Covid-19 that may present in the weeks ahead.”