£50 notes© Michael Weber/imageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock

Farmers in Northern Ireland will be paid an advance on their 2016 Basic Payment Scheme claim in October as the government seeks to ease cashflow pressures on the industry.

Wet weather over the past couple of weeks has piled further pressure on producers in Northern Ireland, who are already struggling to deal with the effects of low commodity prices.

Met Office figures show Northern Ireland had 71% of its average rainfall for the month during the first two weeks of September, with County Fermanagh receiving more than 101.8mm over that period.

The month of August also saw below average hours of sunshine.

See also: Read Farmers Weekly’s latest BPS articles

Market conditions

The plan to issue advance BPS payments were revealed by Northern Ireland’s minister for agriculture Michelle McIlveen. “I am acutely aware of the very challenging market conditions that farmers have faced,” she said.

“While the vast majority of contributing factors are outside our control, we will continue to do all that we can to assist.”

Farm leaders said the early payments would help struggling producers, but banks had to understand that a lot of the BPS money was already earmarked for paying bills and could not be used solely to reduce bank borrowings.

Bad blow

Ulster Farmers’ Union president Barclay Bell said the weather had dealt farmers a bad blow and it was making life extremely difficult for arable and livestock farmers.

Arable farmers were particularly struggling in the North and North West, as high levels of rainfall meant field operations were impossible.

The weather had also forced cattle indoors, which meant farmers were now looking at an eight-month winter with higher feed costs.

“In some cases cattle have already been housed for two weeks – and this is only the middle of September,” said Mr Bell.

“While the weather may improve between now and the end of October, it is doubtful, given ground conditions, that it will be possible to get livestock out to grass again.”

Milk strike

William Taylor, spokesman for Farmers for Action in Northern Ireland, warned a milk strike among dairy farmers was a possibility unless farmgate prices rose significantly over the next few weeks.

There was outrage among some farmers that buyers were saying they wanted more milk but were not prepared to pay a sustainable price for it, he said.

Advance BPS payments

EU rules allow member states to pay a 70% advance, ahead of the official payment window opening on 1 December, assuming all the necessary checks have been completed.

Farmers in Ireland will receive advance payments starting from 17 October. Irish farmers have also started to receive payments under two key rural development schemes.

In contrast, farmers in England and Wales will need to wait until 1 December before BPS payments start to flow.

Farmers in Scotland have the option of applying for a nationally funded loan worth 80% of their BPS payment. The loan should be received within the first fortnight in November.