Staff manning the Rural Payments Agency’s helpline will not have access to the Single Payment Scheme database for much of the next week.

The agency has said that the database will be unavailable if farmers call the Customer Service Centre from 6pm on Tuesday, 11 April to 6am Tuesday, 18 April.

The agency has said that essential maintenance and an upgrade to the system for the 2006 scheme have been scheduled for these dates.

An RPA spokesman claimed that work to tackle the SPS claim backlog would continue while the system was off-line.

But the NFU has suggested that with 62,000 claims still in the validation pipeline, the shutdown will not help matters.

“No real dent in that number is expected over the next couple of weeks owing to the shutdown of the SPS system,” said an NFU statement.