More than £18m has been claimed from a Covid-19 support scheme for farmers.
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The scheme was set up to compensate mainly dairy and beef businesses which suffered a price collapse as lockdown took hold.

About 11,000 businesses applied to the Department of Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs (DAERA) fund as part of the £25m Covid-19 support package announced by the Northern Ireland Executive.

Payments will be issued from Monday.

Applications opened on 7 September and about 98% of eligible farmers submitted applications by the closing date.

The DAERA Minister, Edwin Poots, said it was, “the most generous allocation made by any UK or EU administration for the agriculture and horticulture sectors during the Coronavirus emergency.”

“My officials worked tirelessly, in partnership with industry and stakeholders, to get the scheme up and running and they will now demonstrate equal effort in processing these applications to ensure payments can begin to issue this incoming week,” he added.

Slump in demand
The scheme for eligible businesses in the commercial horticulture sector will be opening in October.

A total of £11m will go to dairy farmers who saw their milk price drop as global commodity markets slumped and food service businesses like cafes, bars and restaurants closed.

Beef farmers who faced similar problems will receive £7m.

Some sheep, potato and horticulture businesses will also benefit.

Potato farmers who were not able to sell their produce to food service for chips and other potato products, or had to send it for animal feed, will get money.

Mr Poots said up to £1.6million was available to offset losses incurred by eligible farm businesses who specialise in supplying potatoes for processing to meet food service and hospitality industry needs.

The scheme is still accepting applications from potato businesses and they close on 30 September.

Growers of ornamental bedding plants who suffered when garden centres shut will also share in the compensation.

There is also money for a smaller number of sheep farmers who sold stock when prices were bad.

In total 150,000 cattle and 40,000 sheep slaughtered during the downturn will attract compensation payments and dairy farmers who produced 856m litres of milk during the crisis will get a top-up payment.

The money will compensate beef and sheep producers for 100% of their losses, while dairy farmers will have 80% of their losses covered.

This reflects the fact that beef and sheep farmers with lower incomes may have struggled to access other government support.

There are 25,000 registered farm businesses in Northern Ireland.

Payments will be made to those who supplied milk or sold beef and sheep for slaughter during specific reference periods during the lockdown.

The department already holds or has gathered most of the information it needs to calculate the amounts in such cases.

The scheme for eligible businesses in the commercial horticulture sector will be opening in October.

With the rising cost of production, Goa Dairy has no choice but to hike the price of milk and cattle feed, said its
Chairman Rajesh Faldesai on Tuesday. The decision will be finalised at the upcoming Board meeting, said Faldesai, adding that some benefit of

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