Farmers in Northern Ireland are under serious final pressure, and the banks must understand that early CAP payments must be used to pay bills rather than bank debts, according to the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU).

Poor weather and field conditions have forced many farmers to house their cattle early, said UFU President, Barclay Bell.

The increased costs of this early housing places added pressure on farmers who are struggling financially following a year of poor prices, Bell outlined.

Once again we are having to appeal to the banks to recognise that cash flow pressures remain acute.

“Early CAP payments will help, but when this funding hits bank accounts next month, its important banks understand that a lot of this is already ear-marked for paying bills. It cannot be used solely for paying down bank borrowings.”

The UFU President was speaking after meeting farmers in Tyrone, Fermanagh, North Derry and North Antrim who were forced to house cattle early due to high levels of rainfall.

“In some cases cattle have already been housed for two weeks and this is only the middle of September.”

While the weather may improve between now and the end of October, it is doubtful, given ground conditions, that it will be possible to get livestock out to grass again.

“This early housing will have big cash flow implications for farmers, with higher feed bills starting earlier and the possibility of farmers now looking at what could again be an eight month winter.”

Bell said farmers in the west were no strangers to difficult conditions, but this is a big blow given there were hopes that better prices for some commodities might ease financial pressure in the final months of 2016.

Meanwhile, weather conditions across Northern Ireland were also making life difficult for arable farmers, particularly in the north and northwest of the country, according to Bell.

“Long, dry spells of weather have proved elusive so far this autumn. Many arable farmers are finding themselves in a difficult position of having to deal with poor prices and often disappointing yields, while an over-supplied global cereal markets is pulling prices down further,” the UFU president said.