Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association President John Comer has criticised the Department of Agriculture over its demand that €1.4m in allegedly incorrect payments to farmers be returned.

The payments are believed to have been made to thousands of farmers under the Single Farm Payment Scheme between 2008 and 2011.

The department is seeking the repayments following an audit of payments, which showed that in some cases ineligible land had been included in successful applications for funding.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Comer described the decision as "grossly unfair".

He said he would have no problem with the department seeking the repayment of money paid out under the scheme going back one year.

However, he said it was unfair for farmers to be asked to pay back money they received under the scheme as far back as 2008.

Mr Comer said farmers had acted in the belief that the land they were submitting for the payments was eligible at the time.

He said he accepted that farmers had a degree of responsibility when it came to selecting the correct land when they made their application for funding under the scheme, but he said it was not a "black and white" issue.