Huge disparities in the amount of subsidy paid to farmers throughout the EU have been revealed in new data from the EU Commission.

According to the figures, just over 1000 farm businesses received aid cheques of over €500,000 (£340,000) in 2004/05 – the year before production-linked aids were replaced by the single farm payment. Of these, over 700 were in Germany – mainly large scale, ex-state farms in the east of the country.

In contrast, almost 4.5m farmers received aid cheques of less than €1250 (£850).

The figures are influencing discussions in Brussels as the commission prepares for the 2008 “health check” of the common agricultural policy.

Agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel has already spoken of her enthusiasm for a ceiling on support payments of €300,000 (£204,000) per business. But she is also interested in raising the minimum payment, to remove some of the smallest “hobby farmers” from the system and so ease the administrative burden.