Special support payments for hard-pressed UK dairy producers have started arriving in farm bank accounts, says the government.
The first payments have been made to more than 10,000 farmers across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it said.
This is equivalent to three-quarters of all eligible farmers and amounts to almost £19.2 million.
Payments will continue through November and December.
The UK government secured £26.6 million in support from the European Commission in September – the third-largest support package among member states – to help dairy farmers affected by the current global volatility in milk prices.
UK ministers agreed to pay a flat rate linked to milk production and for the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to pay out the money on behalf of the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as England.
The flat rate for dairy farmers in England, Scotland and Wales is just under 0.176p per litre.
In Northern Ireland it is just under 0.226p per litre, recognising that Northern Irish farmers have been suffering from some of the lowest prices across Europe.
Defra minister George Eustice said: “It has been a tough year for dairy farmers grappling with low prices for the milk they produce.
“We fought for, and secured, one of the largest support packages among EU countries and the RPA has pulled out all the stops to start making these important payments two weeks earlier than planned.
“I hope these payments will now provide some much-needed relief for dairy farmers across the UK.”
Mr Eustice said the government was also working to increase the long-term resilience of the dairy industry, including introducing a fairer tax system, pushing for clearer labelling of British dairy products and setting up a futures market for dairy.
“We are also working with the industry to open up new export markets,” he added.
Only last week, dairy businesses from across the UK were out in Shanghai, exhibiting their wares as part of the a trade mission to promote Britain’s high-quality dairy produce to the Chinese, said Mr Eustice.
Any dairy farmer in England who receives a letter from the RPA and is asked to register on the Rural Payments system or to provide up-to-date bank account details is urged to call the RPA’s helpline on 03000 200 301 as soon as possible.
Farmers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland who are not registered will be added to the Rural Payments system using information provided by the devolved administrations.