It has been confirmed that 85% advance payments under the 2017 Organic Farming Scheme have now commenced.

The announcement was made by the Minister of State with responsibility for Organics at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Andrew Doyle.

Commenting on the announcement, the minister said: “I am delighted to announce that advance payments under this scheme are starting to flow for organic farmers.

“I am very pleased that we have met our commitment to commence these payments in December, as promised.

The scheme is one of our key drivers in increasing Irish organic output which will help us exploit the vast market opportunities internationally for this product.

The Organic Farming Scheme is a major scheme under Ireland’s Rural Development Programme, according to the department.

Some 1,600 farmers receive a payment under this scheme to support their organic enterprise and these advance payments consist of 85% of the full payment due for the year.

It is expected that the balancing payments for the remaining 15% will be paid in 2018 as per EU rules. Annual payments under the Organic Farming Scheme come to over €10 million, the department explained.

The first advance payments have issued to some participant’s bank accounts this week with more scheduled to issue during the last week in December.

Recently, the Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) rural development chairman, Joe Brady, underlined the importance of these payments being to farmers without delay.

Brady was speaking after a meeting with the Department of Agriculture in Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford earlier this week.

At the meeting, the IFA also sought the reopening of the scheme to new entrants and those who are committed to going organic. Currently 2% of the land area of Ireland is covered under the organic scheme, it added.