The government’s announcement of its Energy Bills Discount Scheme to replace current energy support for businesses has left many farmers and growers in a vulnerable position with farm level sectors left out of additional support.Particularly at risk are some primary food production sectors, says NFU President Mientte Batters, pointing to protected horticulture and poultry.
She said the new scheme offered markedly less protection from volatile energy markets and does little to create certainty for businesses, pointing out that horticulture and poultry had not been included in a pre-defined selection of industries which nevertheless includes botanical gardens.
The said: “The omission of horticulture is particularly frustrating. What is the justification for botanical gardens to be included in the scheme, but not food grown in glasshouses?”
She said the NFU had repeatedly made the case that energy prices were threatening next year’s crop of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, pointing out how the changes to support seemed to at odds with the government’s ambitions to grow more fruit and vegetables, according to its National Food Strategy.
“While we accept that farming businesses can’t be insulated from long term market realities, the government must recognise that its current approach seriously undermines our ability to produce food,” Minette said. “We are asking for a review of the scheme so that if and when energy prices do rise, there can be changes made to support essential food producing sectors.”
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