A £4m support scheme to help pig and poultry farmers in Northern Ireland who were hit financially by Covid-19 market disruption has opened for applications.
The scheme, which will pay farmers 80% of the losses they incurred, is available to pig farmers who supplied pigs to Cranswick Country Foods between 4 September and 7 November 2020.
Support will also be offered to poultry farmers who produced broiler breeder pullets or broiler hatching eggs and were hit negatively by the market disruption from 23 March 2020 to 31 January 2021.
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Production at Cranswick Country Foods was halted for two weeks in August 2020 because of an outbreak of coronavirus among its workforce.
This led to significant losses for an estimated 130 local pig producers, who suffered the temporary loss of the Chinese export market, additional penalties on overweight and overfat pigs, and the price impact of needing to make alternative marketing arrangements.
The poultry sector was put under pressure due to falling demand for hatching eggs, forcing producers to deplete laying flocks earlier than normal, with longer intercrop periods for both rearing and laying farms also leading to cashflow problems.
Eligible farm businesses will receive a letter from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) this week, inviting them to apply for the support package.
To do so, they must complete an online application by 24 March.
Only businesses that are considered eligible will have the option to complete the online application form.