Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has announced that a further £1.6 million COVID-19 support scheme for pig producers is being rolled out.
The second tranche of NI COVID compensation is available for pig farmers who were affected by the impact of the pandemic on international pigmeat markets from the spring of last year. The NI industry was badly hit when Cranswick’s Ballymena plant lost its Chinese export licence after a COVID outbreak.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, more than £23.5m has already been paid out by DAERA to affected local farm businesses, including more than £2m to pig producers.
Mr Poots said: “I am pleased that my Department has been able to once again secure £1.6million 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 (UFU) and I am grateful to them for their input and providing evidence of verifiable losses that supported the successful development of these schemes.”
Those who are eligible for the Scheme have received a letter inviting them to apply via the DAERA website, with a closing date of August 12. Explanatory information and guidance has been published on the DAERA website
UFU pork and bacon chairman Glenn Cuddy welcomed the announcement. “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,” he said.
“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.”
He encouraged UFU members who have received a letter inviting them to apply to do so as soon as possible, given the short application window.
The announcement from Northern Ireland follows confirmation from Farming Minister Victoria Prentis that Defra has rejected the introduction of a similar scheme in England, prompting an angry response from the NPA.