So far advance CAP payments, which began on October 17, have reached 90.72% of eligible farmers in Northern Ireland, the Minister for Agriculture Michelle McIIveen confirmed.

The Minister had previously set a target of 80% of eligible farmers to receive an advance payment, which has now been surpassed.

A target of 95% was also set for the number of full payments to be made by the end of December 2016 by the Minister for Agriculture.

The increased number of farmers submitting their Single Application online made it possible for Northern Ireland to become the first region in the UK to introduce advance payments, the Minister said.

In 2016 there was a 16% increase in online applications compared to last year, bringing the total number to 62%, according to Minister McIIveen.

Earlier this month, the Minister announced that under an exchange rate of €1 = £0.85228p, 2016 Direct Payments to farmers would be boosted by £39m.

These advance payments are a huge boost for over 21,000 farmers and are a clear example of how the Executive is delivering for the agriculture industry, she said.

“I announced recently that Northern Ireland would be the first region of the United Kingdom to make advance payments.

“I am pleased to be able to confirm that 90.72% of eligible farmers have received an advance payment, resulting in a total of £158m reaching 21,111 farmers much earlier this year.

“I am delighted with this outcome which exceeds the challenging target of 80% I set earlier this month.”

While my department has worked hard to deliver, it is clear that the increase in farmers applying online has facilitated early payments.

Meanwhile, these payments will deliver a boost to the cash flow of farm businesses right across Northern Ireland, the Minister said, while her department will continue to work diligently to deliver for farmers.

“I am particularly pleased that many young farmers, and a significant number of businesses subject to inspection, are receiving advance payments.

“My Department is now focusing on the necessary work to deliver full or balance payments to 95% of eligible farmers in December.”