Almost all (99%) of Northern Ireland’s farmers have been issued with their full or balance direct payments on the first day of the pay-out window.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) paid out £85.6 million on day one of the December window. It’s in addition to the £195.4 million previously issued.

The payments, which have now been made to 23,609 farmers, bring the total issued since October to £281 million.

A DAERA spokesman said: “99% of farm businesses will receive their full or balanced payments on day one of the payment window – a record-breaking achievement. This included 95% of farm businesses subject to land inspections.

Payments will begin to reach farm business bank accounts from December 5, 2019. The department continues to work hard to pay the remaining claims as quickly as possible.

Payment letters have issued today and are available through DAERA’s online portal.

This year, the department had obtained permission from the European Commission to make advance payments at 70% of claim value, meaning balance payments will comprise the remaining 30% of the claim’s value.

A department spokesman warned balance payments can only be made on fully verified claims. Full payments will also be made to those with fully verified claims who could not receive an advance payment at that time.