NI farmers welcome £21.4m coronavirus aid package

More than £21m of Covid-19 support funding is to be shared out among beef, dairy, sheep, potato and ornamental producers in Northern Ireland, following negotiations between the farming unions and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera).

The full £25m package was announced by agriculture minister Edwin Poots in late May, and was initially expected to be targeted at the beef and dairy sectors.

See also: NI dairy and beef farmers to share in £25m Covid-19 aid fund

But it has now emerged that a wider range of farm businesses will benefit – and that some of the money will be held back to provide a contingency in case of future market disruption.

“Covid-19 was a shock to the agri-food industry and caused a significant downturn in the trading ability of the sector,” said Mr Poots. “I have met with numerous industry representatives and stakeholders to examine the nature and extent of the financial losses that are being incurred. 

“I have decided to target £21.4m of the £25m support package towards those businesses in the beef, dairy, sheep, potato and ornamental horticulture sectors that have been hardest hit financially.”

He explained that, since other support measures are available to agricultural and horticultural businesses, rates of compensation for losses incurred have been set at 100% or 80% – depending on the nature of the business.

How much for each sector?

  • Beef £7m (100% losses covered)
  • Dairy £11m (80% losses covered)
  • Sheep £232,000 (100% losses covered)
  • Potatoes £1.2-£1.6m  (80% losses covered)
  • Ornamentals £1.2m-£1.6m (80% losses covered)

The Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) – which had initially sought £13.2m for beef producers – said it was right that a wider range of farm enterprises were set to benefit.

“The support will be of huge benefit to farming families across NI in these farming sectors,” said UFU president Ivor Ferguson.

“It will help stabilise the agriculture industry in its entirety, making sure we come out the other side of this pandemic together in a position that allows us to build towards a brighter future.”

Farmers and growers will be asked to complete a simple application form indicating that they wish to access the funds and provide supporting evidence if required.

The £3.6m not spent from the original £25m will be added to another £3.6m of reprioritised funds from internal Daera budgets, to create a £7m contingency fund.

The UFU said this was “the right call”.

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