Farmers failed to cash £2.6m in cheques

 

Farmers failed to cash cheques worth more than £2.6 million this year, according to the Department of Agriculture.

The farming community will have received close to £1 billion in cheques issued by the Department by the end of the year to cover headage, premia and other schemes.

The figures show that in all 4,672 cheques worth £2,640,464,06 had to be reissued by the Department for a number of reasons. Of these, £1,257,952 worth were payments from the EU, and the number of cheques involved was 3,637. The remainder, worth £1.382,511, came from national funding and involved 1,035 cheques.

The total of the largest cheque from the EU was £12,694, and the largest from Irish funding came to £22,275.

The average amount for uncashed cheques was £565.

An Irish Farmers' Association spokesman said the uncashed cheques did not mean the farming community did not need the money involved.

"In most of the cases, these are cheques which have been issued in the wrong name or to people who have died or are being disputed in some way," he said.

He said there was also a problem for some farmers who did not have access to a bank or did not use banks.

"When you take into account that the Department of Agriculture issues well in excess of one million cheques annually, this is a very low percentage of overall total," he said.

Direct payments to farmers through the various schemes this year will come to about £1 billion for the first time, most of this in premia, headage and area aid payments.

In addition the Department administers the EU Early Retirement and Rural Environmental Protection Schemes which involve more than 30,000 farmers.

It is estimated there are 130,000 farmers in the Republic, but more than 160,000 farms.

The latest Central Statistics Office figures show that farm income declined by 4 per cent in the last year. This is the second successive year that farm incomes have fallen.