The coronavirus support scheme for wool will be available to all NI sheep farmers on a flat rate payment per ewe, the Irish Farmers Journal has learned.

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots announced in April that £1.27m was being allocated to support farmers who were affected by poor wool prices due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The scheme came about after extensive lobbying by the Ulster Farmers’ Union and Ulster Wool.

However, sheep farmers who do not supply Ulster Wool and instead sell to merchants at spot prices will also be eligible for the scheme.

“The coronavirus support scheme for wool will provide support to all sheep farmers who have been impacted as a direct result of the drop in wool prices, for the 2019 and 2020 wool crops,” a DAERA spokesperson said.

Flat-rate payment

“Plans for the delivery of the scheme are currently being finalised on the basis that a flat-rate payment will be made per ewe,” the spokesperson confirmed.

Based on the 2019 sheep inventory, when 905,800 ewes were recorded in NI, the support payment would equate to approximately £1.40/ ewe.

The DAERA spokesperson said that legislation to enable the scheme to be rolled out is being finalised and will be presented to the NI Assembly before summer recess.

The department’s plan is to open the scheme for applications after that with payments issued to farmers “in late summer”.

Meanwhile, DAERA has been allocated a further £12.4m of COVID-19 funding in the 2021/22 budget.