Half of all poultry farmers who supply Dungannon’s largest employer, the chicken processor Moy Park, belong to the controversial Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.
The revelation, which comes after Moy Park’s claims at a January meeting that the poultry sector was not to blame for a spike in applicants, was contained in recently released documents from the North’s Department of Finance.
A total of 350 poultry farmers who supply the poultry giant are believed to have taken advantage of the ‘Cash for Ash’ scheme, many of whom applied after plans were announced to cut the subsidy, but before they took effect.
The botched RHI green scheme saw a surge in demand for poultry shed heating systems as it became massively oversubscribed leading to a £490m (€568m) budget overrun.
The green scheme was set up by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment under the stewardship of Arlene Foster in 2012 to encourage businesses and other non-domestic users to move from using fossil fuels to renewable heating systems. In what has been dubbed the “cash-for-ash” scandal, the flawed scheme meant users could legitimately earn more cash the more fuel they burned.
A total of 984 applications were received, almost as many as those submitted in the previous 34 months.
Although entirely legal, firms receive more in subsidies than they pay for renewables.
In a memo to officials after the January meeting, Stephen McMurray, the Department of the Economy’s RHI taskforce leader, wrote: “Full details of the spike in applications were sent to you on January 16. This clearly contradicts Moy Park’s assertion that the poultry industry did not have a significant impact on the spike.”
A Moy Park spokesman said: “In those meetings, we made it clear our assumption was based on limited information as we did not have access to official data.”