Details of Covid schemes outlined

This week has seen farm minister Edwin Poots MLA confirm the detail of three specific schemes that will deliver Covid support measures to the wool, pig and potato sectors.

Saturday, 31st July 2021, 7:51 am
Press Eye - Belfast - 10th June 2021  DUP leader Edwin Poots speaks to the press at Carsonâ€TMs statue in the grounds of Stormont, east Belfast, following his meeting with Secretary of State Brandon Lewis.  Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - 10th June 2021 DUP leader Edwin Poots speaks to the press at Carsonâ€TMs statue in the grounds of Stormont, east Belfast, following his meeting with Secretary of State Brandon Lewis. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Specifically, where pigs and potatoes are concerned, the announcements relate to additional funding that will be made available to both sectors.

The wool-related announcement confirms the means by which previously confirmed support funding can be secured at farm level.

The monies now available to farmers total £4.8m: £2.0m for potatoes; £1.6m for pigs and £1.2m for wool.

Brendan Kelly

Where potatoes are concerned, the monies will be made available to growers supplying the processing sector.

Edwin Poots commented: “I can confirm that my Department has been able to deliver a further £2million in support for those potato growers who have been significantly impacted by Covid-19. This funding will help support them through a difficult time in the aftermath of reduced demand from the hospitality and food service industry for the second year in succession.”

“I met with industry stakeholders and I am grateful to them for their positive contribution to the successful development of this scheme,” Minister Poots added.

Potato growers who have already expressed an interest in the scheme have received an email inviting them to make a formal application. Other growers who meet the eligibility criteria are also invited to submit an application.

Announcing the wool support scheme for sheep farmers, Minister Poots said: “I am pleased that my department has been able to secure £1.2m in support for those sheep farmers who were impacted by the dramatic fall in wool prices as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. I am hopeful that this funding will help in offsetting those verifiable losses in the past year.

“I met with Ulster Wool prior to the development of the Scheme and I am grateful to them for their input and information that demonstrated evidence of verifiable losses in the sector and helped inform the final support measures that I have made available.

“Those who are eligible for the scheme will receive a letter inviting them to apply, and I would encourage them to do so before the closing date of 12 August 2021.”

Sheep farmers can complete the application form available on DAERA Online Services from 28 July 2021.

The £1.6m for pig farmers recognises the impact of the pandemic on international pigment markets from the spring of last year.

Minister Poots said: “I am pleased that my Department has been able to once again secure £1.6m in support for those pig producers who have seen a significant fall in the price they received for cull sows from May 2020. I am hopeful that this funding will help, and the 185 eligible pig producers will submit an application to offset their loss.

“I met with stakeholders including the Ulster Farmers Union and I am grateful to them for their input and providing evidence of verifiable losses that supported the successful development of these schemes.”

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), Ulster Wool and the National Sheep Association (NSA) are encouraging sheep farmers, who have suffered poor wool prices due to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on the global market, to apply for the COVID-19 support package.

UFU hill farming chair Nigel McLaughlin said: “We are pleased that our members can now apply for the support package that has been allocated to the sheep sector to help alleviate the losses sheep farmers incurred from wool sales. The UFU, Ulster Wool and NSA lobbied continuously on behalf of members to get this support secured as farmers across Northern Ireland (NI) have been enduring the impact of the collapsed wool market for the past year with no sign of things improving until very recently. We thank the DAERA Minister for acknowledging the downturn of wool prices and our concerns, and for working effectively to get the scheme opened.”

The application window for the COVID-19 support package closes on 12 August and eligible sheep farmers will receive £1.40(70p/kg) for ewes and ewe lambs, that were put to ram during 2019.

Brendan Kelly, Ulster Wool chairman said: “Ulster Wool welcomes the opening of the application window for NI wool producers to claim under the COVID-19 wool support scheme. Ulster Wool, working collaboratively with our partners the UFU and NSA, provided strong evidence to government ministers demonstrating the losses incurred by NI wool producers as a result of the pandemic.

“By supporting Ulster Wool and delivering your wool into our Muckamore depot or our network of drop off locations, you are supporting your organisation and making a valuable contribution in ensuring Ulster Wool continues to represent the best interests of the NI wool sector.”

Commenting on the support package announced for the pig sector, UFU pork and bacon chairman Glenn Cuddy said: “We’re delighted and thankful to Minister Poots for taking our concerns on board earlier in the year and for providing necessary support for the sector. This announcement follows a very lengthy period of lobbying involving constructive discussions between our pork and bacon committee, Minister Poots and DAERA officials.
“The price of cull sows suffered an extended depression because of COVID-19 related factors and this funding will provide essential support to our pig producers helping to sustain farm businesses.
“The scheme is now open and our members who are eligible for the scheme will have received a letter inviting them to apply. We encourage them to do so as soon as possible as the window for application is very short, closing on 12 August 2021.”