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Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA, has signalled the introduction of a financial support package for the potato growers impacted by a reduction in demand from the hospitality and food service sector for processing potatoes in the past seven months due to Covid-19 lockdown measures.

The Minister explained that: “I met recently with representatives of potato farmers to hear about the impact a prolonged period of lockdown due to Covid-19 has had on their businesses. The market for processing potatoes has been negatively impacted since October, and the only option for many growers at this stage in the season is to sell their potatoes for livestock feed at significantly reduced prices.

He went on to say, “The support will be a contribution towards the verifiable losses incurred by these farmers for the second year in a succession. It will help to address the cash flow difficulties and financial impact of losing valuable markets, and sustain their businesses.”

He added, “Further work is still required to finalise scheme details including eligibility criteria, scheme rules and amount of support available. Anyone selling potatoes for stock feed in the interim is strongly advised to retain evidence of sales to meet anticipated scheme requirements.”

Further details of the scheme will be announced in May and explanatory information will be published on the DAERA website at that time.

Over 11,500 farmers and growers have already benefited from almost £23.5million made available by DAERA as a contribution to offset the losses incurred by the pandemic’s impact on the local agri-food sector in 2020. Along with recent announcements of support for cull sows and wool, this will bring the total Covid-19 funding provided to local industry to almost £27m.