Minister Poots to begin work to divvy up £25 million Covid fund

Northern Ireland Minister of Agriculture Edwin Poots has said he will soon start work to divvy up a £25 million emergency funding boost to help the industry cope with Covid-19 market disruption.

Minister Poots said the money would be used to support the region’s beef and dairy sectors as their markets had been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

‘A lifeline’

Speaking from Hollowbridge Farm, a diversified farm, which has had to adapt its business during the pandemic, this afternoon (May 20), Minister Poots said the money would be “a lifeline” for many agricultural businesses.

“I have repeatedly and publicly made the case for our beef and dairy sectors, knowing just how challenging this period has been for them,” he said.

“This cash injection is the most generous allocation made by any UK or EU administration for the agriculture sector during the coronavirus emergency and reflects the deep and complex challenges the industry faces.

“We know that with falling demand and prices for beef and dairy products, many farm businesses have been amongst the hardest hit, so the funding I have secured will certainly go some way towards helping the sectors.

This will be a lifeline for many businesses and reflects the executive’s commitment to supporting the sectors.

The minister continued: “I have vowed to do all I can to support the agriculture industry during these very difficult times.

“Therefore, I have also asked my officials to identify any further potential additional funding from within my own department to enhance this current allocation and provide support for these struggling businesses.”

Help for horticulture?

Minister Poots also said he recognised that the pandemic had caused issues for the region’s horticulture sector.

“Northern Ireland’s horticulture industry sells more than £25 million of products each year and many growers have had to dispose of unsalable products,” he said.

The recent re-opening of garden centres has, however, given the industry a much-needed boost and will go some way towards helping the sector recoup some of its loses.

“I will monitor the impacts of Covid-19 on the horticulture sector over the next few weeks to assess the level of financial support required.”

Work will now begin on how best to allocate funding for the beef and dairy businesses that are most in need.

Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) president Ivor Ferguson added: “This is a successful outcome for the UFU as we have been lobbying DAERA Minister Edwin Poots, on behalf of our members, to gain support for farming families since the Covid-19 outbreak began and are pleased that he has taken our requests on board.

Minister Poots has displayed a strong understanding for the needs of our farmers at this difficult time and now we urge DAERA to try and seek extra funding for our farmers.

“We would also ask DAERA to get discussions with industry stakeholders underway as soon as possible.

“This is vital as DAERA is responsible for allocating the support appropriately between agriculture commodities ensuring that individual farm businesses in Northern Ireland can benefit from this package.”