Dairy farmers in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK started to receive their EU aid payments, two weeks ahead of schedule, earlier this week.

The initial tranche of the payments will be made to those dairy farmers for whom the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has up-to-date banking details.

Around £3.6m is due to be paid immediately to 2,250 (just over 71%) farmers in Northern Ireland, according to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD).

Dairy farmers will receive a one-off payment, which will be based on a flat rate per litre of milk production, DARD has stated.

Those for whom these details are still being checked and verified will follow at the earliest opportunity and the RPA aims to have all payments made by the end of the year.

The North’s Minister for Agriculture, Michelle O’ Neill said that tackling the plight of the North’s dairy farmers, who have been experiencing a prolonged period of severely depressed prices as a result of the global dairy crisis, remains a priority for her.

I have made significant efforts to impress upon my counterparts in Britain, Dublin and Brussels the need for a swift and effective response from the European Commission.

The Minister also said she’s made efforts upon her counterparts for recognition of the extreme impact of the crisis on farmers in the North.

“I am thankful for the support of our agri-food industry, the DARD Committee and our MEPs in lobbying on behalf of our dairy farmers.

“Last month, DEFRA announced that £5.1m, under the EU Dairy Fund 2015, would be directed to farmers in the North,” she said.

Minister O’Neill said that the decision to allocate nearly one-fifth of the Member State’s package to the North’s farmers was made in response to the North’s campaign to highlight the unique and difficult circumstances facing our industry.

“The payment of a higher flat rate to the North’s farmers is clear recognition of our exceptional case,” she said.

She said that these payments will go some way towards easing the immediate cashflow concerns of farmers.