The latest figures from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine show that almost 5,000 farmers have yet to receive their advance payment for the 2018 Basic Payment Scheme.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to fast track payments that have been delayed and noted that the first run of payments took place on October 16.

Commenting on the matter, the Roscommon-Galway TD said: “I will be calling on the minister to get more deeply involved with his department to make sure that the payments being held up are released as soon as possible.

“We saw last February and March how the department sent out literature to all farmers telling them that they wouldn’t accept paper applications to the BPS this year and that applications had to be submitted online as a result of EU regulations.

Farmers were told that this move towards online applications would enable the department to process submissions as efficiently as possible and that payments would run smoothly and rapidly.

Fitzmaurice added: “It was hoped that the transition to 100% online applications would give the department a two-month head start on processing submissions, due to the fact that no paper applications had to be sorted through.”

Continuing, he said: “But as is the same with every other year, we now see situations where people who are under pressure to repay loans in banks, pay contractors and merchants and in some cases are under pressure with vulture funds knocking at their doors, are being fed the line that payments have been delayed due to a remote inspection having been carried out.

If the department was given a head start on processing applications this year due to farmers making submissions online, then surely these inspections could have been carried out some time ago.

Fitzmaurice also outlined that with Christmas fast approaching “a lot of farming families are under pressure”.

“As farmers have obliged the department in submitting their applications online this year to meet EU regulations, they need to be able to see improvements regarding how payments are rolled out – and those improvements are not apparent at the moment,” he concluded.