Almost 200,000 pupils in NI will be able to benefit from subsidised milk for the next two years, Agriculture Minister Gordon Lyons has confirmed.

The minister made the comments to reassure schools, parents and pupils that his department will continue to fund the School Milk Scheme until at least the end of 2023/24.

The school milk scheme takes around a million litres of milk to run each year.

Around £1 million is being made available up to 2024 for the demand-led scheme.

Speaking about the scheme, Minister Lyons said: “The School Milk Scheme has proven extremely popular with schools, parents and pupils.

“Up to a million litres of milk are enjoyed every year and almost 200,000 pupils in over 800 schools benefit.

The scheme aims to help ensure pupils have a healthy and balanced diet by including fresh milk, which is an excellent source of calcium, proteins and vitamins for growing children.

“I am pleased to clarify that the funding is in place to allow the School Milk Scheme to operate until at least the end of 2023/2024.

“Any primary or special primary school can take part in the scheme and the support ensures that milk can be provided at a reduced cost.”

The move has been welcomed by the Northern Ireland Dairy Council.