Northern Ireland

Helping hand for hard pressed farming families

Jude McCann
Image caption Jude McCann said farming families were under immense pressure

Seventeen companies have donated thousands of pounds worth of food for hard-pressed farm families and people living in the countryside.

Amongst those contributing is a County Antrim egg company which was badly damaged by winter storms in 2013 and needed help then.

The food is being packed into 100 Christmas hampers for distribution across Northern Ireland.

It is being done by a charity, Rural Support.

It was set up 13 years ago to help rural communities after foot-and -mouth disease.

The hampers include items like butter, cheese, chicken, bacon and a Christmas pudding - to a value of about £50.

Image caption Sealing up the hampers, ready for delivery to those who need them

Seventeen companies are involved between them donating about £5,000 worth of food.

Rural Support's chief executive Jude McCann, said calls to its helpline were up 25% in recent months on the same period last year.

"There are a whole range of issues, some finance and debt problems, also around relationship issues and mental health problems," he said.

Many farm families are under enormous income pressure due to poor prices in dairy, beef and sheep.

Mr McCann said some were heavily in debt, and others were hard pushed to pay regular bills such as animal feed.

In some cases. they were choosing to feed animals before feeding themselves, he said.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Northern Ireland's farmers were badly affected by heavy snow

Niall Delargy's business was badly damaged in March 2013. Heavy snows collapsed one of his poultry houses in the Glens of Antrim, killing stock and hitting about a third of his production.

He turned to Rural Support for help, both financial and emotional.

He is now returning the favour by donating sixty dozen eggs to the appeal.

"Now our business is in a better place, we'd like to give a little bit back where we can," he said.

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