Three quarters of Welsh farmers received 80% of their single farm payments entitlements on December 1, the first day allowed under EC rules.

Carwyn Jones, Wales’s rural affairs minister, has announced that £110m was transferred to eligible farmers’ bank accounts, including about 40% of National Reserve applicants.

“We were among the first in Europe to make these payments,” Mr Jones claimed. “This is a tremendous achievement for Wales. I think I can safely say that the problems we had with payments in 2002 are history, and I hope we have restored confidence in our payments system.”

The minister also repeated a promise made at the Welsh Winter Fair that his officials would work flat out to pay cross border farmers their entitlements on their land in Wales before Christmas.

Balance payments would be made next spring once the UK’s National Reserve was finalised, but recipients must be aware that these would be subject to deductions such as modulation and penalties, and may be further reduced to fund the reserve.

Mr Jones again emphasised that the 3000 farmers who had failed to answer queries about their application forms would not get paid until they did.

He urged all farmers to plan their finances thoroughly to adjust to the new payment system.