Helen Gregory Multiple supermarkets forked out £2m to help beleaguered farmers hit by foot and mouth disease this week ­ as the crisis took a dramatic turn for the worse with the first confirmed cases in the Republic of Ireland. Asda, Marks & Spencer, Safeway, Sainsbury, Somer-field, Tesco and Waitrose have each contributed cash to a new fund set up by the IGD ­ in a move seen as a direct response to media criticism that they are profiteering from the outbreak. The fund aims to channel contributions to farmers' charities, help rebuild agricultural businesses, contribute to-wards securing farming's future, and get British produce back on the shelves. In addition, non-IGD member Morrisons has pledged £200,000 to charities nominated by the NFU to help farming families hit by the crisis. It is also speeding up payments to livestock suppliers so that all bills are settled within 48 hours. But as the number of cases in mainland UK continued to spiral, the announcement the Irish farming community had been dreading finally came in Dublin. On Thursday, Ireland became the fourth EU country to be infected since the crisis began five weeks ago. In Britain, the NFU has set up the Supporting Farmers in Crisis fund to administer and distribute cash, which will be held in trust. NFU marketing director Helen Lo said the fund would help "enormously" on a number of levels. "It will pay bills and support farmers on a day to day basis as well as help those who have to restock." She said the NFU also planned to launch an assertive marketing campaign once the outbreak was under control. It will reinforce the message of the Little Red Tractor symbol and British farm assurance. No date has been set, but Lo said the multiples were likely to support the initiative. IGD director general Joanne Denney said the retailers had come up with the idea for a fund. "The group is now meeting to discuss how the money can be best spent." She added that manufacturers were not involved, but many had their own initiatives, such as the Co-op, which was helping farmers directly through its own farms. {{NEWS }}