UK fruit and veg businesses have breathed a sigh of ­relief after the Rural Payments Agency said it was releasing vital EU funds and giving suppliers a 12-month lifeline to prove why they should continue to receive EU monies.

The agency said this week it was suspending the Producer Organisation status of 17 businesses for 12 months, during which they could provide further evidence to support their case for EU funding. Contrary to industry fears, however, the RPA said it would not de-recognise the POs immediately and would pay out funds that had already been granted during 2010.

Aga Baginska, CEO of Northern Mushrooms one of the 17 POs that has been suspended said this was "a hugely constructive step forward". "We are expecting £440,000 in funds, so knowing this will be paid is a huge relief," she added.

NFU chief horticulture adviser Hayley Campbell-Gibbons agreed the RPA's announcement provided much-needed clarity. "It will come as a huge relief to hear that the RPA will not be seeking any recovery of funds and that the 2010 payments are finally being processed," she said.