EU milk cash to be released
Payments to milk suppliers from the EU dairy hardship fund should be released by the end of March.
Department of Agriculture officials confirmed that the payments are in the pipeline and are expected to be cleared in the next "month or so".
"The payment will be made to eligible farmers using the Single Payment system of the Department. The Department has notified the EU Commission and the operational arrangements necessary for payment are, at present, being finalised," a spokesperson said.
Irish dairy farmers are due to share €11.5m from an EU-wide fund of €300m which was made available by the Commission after last year's collapse in milk prices.
Minister Smith has decided to allocate Ireland's share of the money on a flat-rate basis to dairy farmers active in the 2008/2009 year. The payment must be made by the end of June at the latest.
Donie Shine, of the National Milk Rights Group, said news that the money would be paid over the next month will be welcomed by farmers who have been hit hard by the fall in milk prices.
Meanwhile, the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that milk supplies to creameries and pasteurisers from Irish farmers fell by 4.8bn litres (1.06bn gallons) last year.
This is a 3pc reduction compared to 2008 and reflects the serious difficulties faced by dairy farmers through last year, with prices dropping to their lowest levels in more than two decades.