Farming unions have hit out at the decision by the UK government not to extend higher energy relief for the intensive energy broiler sector, warning that domestic food production will suffer.
The National Farmers’ Union is extremely concerned that current support under the Energy Bill Relief Scheme is set to expire at the end of March, to be replaced by a less supportive Energy Bills Discount Scheme.
It has written to chancellor Jeremy Hunt calling for the Energy and Trade Intensive (ETII) to include energy-intensive sectors such as poultry and horticulture.
Minette Batters, NFU president, called for an urgent review into the ETII, saying it was “irresponsible that the ETII scheme completely overlooks food production, not to mention it being wholly at odds with the government’s own ambition to produce more home-grown fruit and vegetables.
“An urgent review into the ETII is needed to ensure that essential and vulnerable food-producing sectors, such as protected horticulture and poultry production, do not face a cliff edge when the Energy Bill Relief Scheme ends later this month,” added Batters.
Martin Kennedy, NFU Scotland president, expressed his deep disappointment that despite strong representations from the farming sector across the UK, there had been no breakthrough around additional energy relief for horticulture and poultry.
The 4 farming unions had also written to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, highlighting that unless the scheme was amended to provide a higher level of relief, there could be cuts in domestic production.
“That risks longer-running food price inflation for consumers and could also negatively impact the thousands of supply chain companies that are sustainable by the farming sector,” added Kennedy.
The Country Land and Business Association’s president, Mark Tufnell, said the budget had shown the Conservative party had little ambition for the rural economy. “The rural economy is 19% less productive than the national average. Closing this gap would add £43 billion to the national economy. Nothing in this budget will unlock that vast potential.”
And the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers said it was disappointed that butchers had not been added to the shortage occupation list (SOL), a move that would have made it easier for meat companies to fulfil their labour requirements.