Fewer than 2500 farmers in England had been paid their single farm payment by the end of February, it has emerged.

The Rural Payments Agency told Farmers Weekly on Wednesday (1 March) that since 20 February it had paid out a total of 19m to 2400 customers.

“The pace of payments will ramp up now,” said a spokesman.

“And we are still on target to pay the bulk of payments by the end of March.”

Speaking on Tuesday (28 February), junior DEFRA minister Lord Bach admitted that the numbers of producers who had been paid so far were “small beer”.

But he said he was pleased that the government had kept to its promise that payments would start in February.

“We do recognise there is a long way to go and I accept there has been a degree of understandable frustration from the farming community.

But we now need to just get on and pay this money – that is my priority.

“We said over a year ago that we would begin payment in February this year and we have begun payments in February this year.

We also still believe that the bulk of payments will be paid in March this year.”

Asked what he meant by the bulk of payments, Lord Bach said: “I mean more than 50% – but I hope much more than 50%.

It won’t be the 96%…but a good deal more than half is what I would like to see.”

Farmers Weekly has been inundated with calls this week from farmers who are unhappy because they have not yet received their payment.

One North Yorks producer, who asked to remain unnamed, said he was “disgusted and disappointed” that he was yet to see anything.

“It has been a hard year and I have had to sell all my crops forward to ease cash-flow.

The merchants have realised this and have taken advantage.

It has been a bit of a nightmare really.”

isabel.davies@rbi.co.uk