Just three farmers have thus far to pay their outstanding 2016 superlevy debt, according to a latest update by the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed.
When EU milk quota was abolished in April 2015, some 6,400 Irish dairy farmers had accrued a superlevy liability of €71 million for exceeding their milk quota.
To assist with the large superlevy bill across the EU, the European Commission introduced an optional scheme for member states whereby a milk quota levy incurred by producers in the final quota year could be paid in equal instalments over three years from 2015 to 2017, inclusive, without interest.
This repayment would take the form of a 33% lump sum in 2015 and the balance to be spread over equal instalments in 2016 and 2017.
Ireland was one of seven member states which opted to introduce this scheme. Ireland chose to implement the scheme so as to assist farmers through a period of market volatility.
According to the Minister, the Department paid the full superlevy bill of €71 million to the European Union in November 2015, made up of €35.4 million collected from farmers that year and €35.6 million from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine funds.
The Minister said approximately 2,700 producers opted to pay their full levy in 2015, while the remaining 3,700 opted to join the instalment scheme.
He detailed that repayments are as follows: €17.8 million was paid in five equal instalments from May to September 2016 and €17.8 million is to be paid in five equal instalments from May to September 2017.
The first instalments were due in May 2016 and were repaid in each month up to September.
These months were chosen to coincide with peak production periods for farmers. End-of-year results indicate over 99.7% of the expected payment was received.
The outstanding debt for 2016 is now down to three participants owing €12,700.
“My Department is in ongoing contact with these farmers to arrange their repayment as required under the relevant regulations.
“To date, €53.2 million of the €71 million in respect of this scheme has been returned to the Exchequer, with the 2017 instalment balance making up the remaining liability.
“It is expected that by the end of this year, the entire superlevy will have been repaid in full by farmer,” he said.