Over 25,000 farmers are still waiting on their Areas of Natural Constraint payment, according to latest figures from the Department of Agriculture.

Payments under the Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme which replaced the Disadvantaged Area Scheme commenced, on schedule, on September 23, 2015.

Responding to questioning from Eamon O Cuiv on the payment schedule, the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney payments worth €156m have issued nationally to some 73,813 applicants.

The Minister said payment will continue to issue on a twice weekly basis, as individual cases are confirmed eligible.

He said at this date last year, 77,260 farmers had been paid €162m.

“Given the two-week extension to this year’s application date and reduced processing time, the payment levels are broadly similar,” he said.

EU Regulations governing the administration of these schemes require that full and comprehensive administrative checks, including in some cases Remote Sensing (i.e. satellite) inspections, be completed before any payments issue.

Up to 10% of applications are selected for a Remote Sensing eligibility inspection.

These inspections are currently being processed with the intention of issuing any payment due under the Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme as soon as possible.

In the event that any queries arise officials in my Department will be in contact with those concerened.

Meanwhile, advance payments under the Basic Payment Scheme have commenced issuing from to eligible applicants whose applications are fully processed.

These payments, worth over €620m to in excess of 100,000 farmers are commencing on the earliest possible date provided for under EU legislation and well ahead of many other Member States.

Following recent discussions with the EU Commission, the Minister also confirmed that the level of the advance payment is set at 70% for 2015 rather than 50% as in previous years.

This has resulted in a significant increase (€140m) in the value of advance payments made to farmers in 2015.