The Rural Payments Agency has passed the billion pound mark in making payments under the Single Payment Scheme for 2007, but farmers groups are calling for the agency to set itself tougher targets.

As of Monday, 18 February the total value of payments made under the 2007 Single Payment Scheme was £1.074bn, equivalent to 74.1% of the estimated total fund of £1.45bn.

A total of 90,125 claimants have received a full SPS payment. This represents 84.5% of the estimated total claimant population of 106,700.

In a statement the RPA said it is “working towards making more full payments to more farmers earlier than last year, with a view to meeting its formal targets of making 75% of full payments, by value, by the end of March and 90% by end of May 2008”.

Room for improvement

However, Country Land and Business Association senior economist, Derrick Wilkinson, said “there is still room for improvement”.

“While we are in a considerably better position than we were 12-18 months ago, the vast majority of payments should have been made before Christmas.

A number of claimants are yet to be paid and these people are really struggling, especially livestock producers and those in the uplands.”

Target

Dr Wilkinson was confident the RPA will meet its self-imposed target of making 90% of payments by May as required by the European Commission.

But he is hopeful that it will set itself tougher targets for the 2008 year to make the majority of payments before Christmas.

Claimants should be free to get on with running their business without having to chase the RPA to find out when they are going to be paid, he said.