Newry and Armagh  MLA Cathal Boylan has welcomed an announcement last week by Finance Minister Conor Murphy of £25 million to support agriculture and horticulture but has said there must be a fair allocation of the fund and he has asked the DAERA Minister Edwin Poots to ensure it is allocated where it is needed most at this time.

Mr Boylan said “At a meeting with the DAERA Minster on Friday my  party colleague Declan Mc Aleer, Chair of the The Assembly’s Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (AERA) Committee   stressed the importance of looking at all of the sectors and also highlighted that some sectors such as beef and sheep, which represent 80% of all farms in the north, have average annual incomes below £12,000 and would gain very little benefit from existing COVID schemes such as the Self Employed Income Support Scheme.

This income base will have plummeted even further since the COVID crisis, with various reports indicating a total supply chain loss for sheep of over £30/head and a beef loss of £240/head due to the lockdown.

A situation must be avoided whereby some sectors can access maximum support from at least two COVID schemes and other sectors cannot access any”.

The Newry & Armagh representative concluded “The agri-food and horticulture sectors have taken a severe hit during the COVID lockdown and this will be very difficult to recover from.

"I welcome the fact that the AERA committee will be listening to sectoral opinion to inform views on this scheme and while this £25m fund will not solve all of the issues, it is a positive move but it must be directed to where it is needed most and allocated in accordance with the department’s equality duties.”

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