NORTHERN IRELAND has had a record uptake of online Single Applications, with 99.53% of farmers submitting their farm support application forms online before the deadline of midnight on Monday May 15.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs reported that the total number of Single Applications received by the deadline was 24,901, of which 24,783 were submitted via its online service, meaning that 9557 farmers switched to online application between 2016 and this year.

Welcoming the figures, DAERA head of payments Jason Foy said: “It has been a real team effort this year between DAERA and farmers to encourage uptake of online applications. I’m delighted that 99.53% of farmers chose to submit their Single Application online, an increase of 37.53% from 2016.

“Throughout the Single Application window we have been appealing to farmers to ‘Help Us to Help You’ by using our online services," he said. "This positive result demonstrates that farmers have recognised the advantages of online application over paper, such as reducing the possibility of simple errors and reducing the time taken to carry out validation checks."

Over the course of this application season, DAERA staff had assisted more than 3000 farmers through appointments at DAERA direct offices, in addition to providing telephone and online support, said Mr Hay, who praised the digital services team for delivering an online system that was "intuitive and easy to use".

“The European Commission has instructed Member States to have 100% of land claimed online by 2018," he added. "This year’s outcome puts us in a very strong position to meet that target next year.”