Farmers for Action has pledged to take action over spiralling fuel prices next month unless the government or retailers step in to help the food industry over “crippling” input costs.

David Handley, FFA chairman, said direct action was being planned across the country “within the next six weeks” in a bid to force the government to slash the duty on fuel.

And he urged the entire industry, from farmers to hauliers, to use their collective power to take a stand against escalating costs.

“The worrying factor is the increases aren’t stopping,” he said. “I was quoted 65p/litre for red diesel last week, and this week it went up to 71p/litre.

“Either the government has got to do something in respect of taxation, or we have to see retailers pass back the cost of production.”

Action needed

Mr Handley said unless something was done about the input cost rises “very quickly”, action would be needed to help farmers whose businesses were being threatened.

“But we have to gain support from everyone, from farmers to hauliers,” he said. “We need one voice – if we work together we can achieve something.”

Mr Handley’s comments came after hauliers in England and Wales took to the roads on Tuesday (27 May) to protest over diesel and petrol prices, which have risen by 30% and 18% respectively over the past year.

Nick Adamson, managing director of oil distributor Ackerman and Niece, said there was still no sign of the increase in fuel prices slowing. Brent crude traded at $130 a barrel on Wednesday (28 May), but prices were still very close to last week’s record high of $135.

“It’s just worrying that the rise is going to carry on,” he said. “A lot of farmers are expecting red diesel prices to be well over 70p/litre by harvest.

“In the past the only thing that’s stopped the prices going up was an economic slowdown. I think farmers just have to ride this out, but it’s not looking rosy at all,” he said.

Cut fuel tax

Gareth Vaughan, Farmers Union of Wales president, said he had written to chancellor Alistair Darling to urge him to cut fuel tax and introduce a fairer tax system. Rural businesses reliant on four-by-four vehicles were being disproportionately hit by road taxation, he said.

“I believe that we have reached a critical point at which action must be taken to significantly reduce fuel tax to aid the economy,” he added.

“An equitable vehicle taxation system must be sought that recognises the stark differences between those who choose to drive certain vehicles and those who do so out of necessity.”