The first payments have been made to over 10,000 farmers across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – three-quarters of all eligible farmers and amounting 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 in recognition that Northern Irish farmers have been suffering from some of the lowest prices across Europe.

UK farming minister George Eustice said: “It’s 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 amongst 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.

”In addition to this short-term support, our work to increase the long-term resilience of the industry continues, 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 and only last week, dairy businesses from across the UK were out in Shanghai exhibiting their wares as part of the Secretary of State’s trade mission to promote Britain’s high-quality dairy produce to the Chinese.”

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.

Meanwhile, the RPA is on track to make full payments on Basic Payment Scheme 2015 claims as soon as possible within the payment window, making the majority of payments in December and the vast majority by the end of January.