21 January 2000

Exempt horticulture plea

HORTICULTURE must be made exempt from the climate change levy or the industry will be driven abroad, said NFU president, Ben Gill, at this weeks HortEx 2000 event in Telford, Shropshire.

"Our fear is this tax will close growers down and they will move in their droves to countries that do not have such taxes," he said.

That includes most of the UKs main competitors in the sector. Spain, Portugal, France and Ireland have no climate change levy, and while Holland has a levy, it is financially neutral for horticulturists. "These are major competitors that will undercut us," he warned.

Annual cost to UK horticultural growers of the so called energy tax will be about £10,000/ha (£4000/acre), the NFU calculates. The highly efficient UK nursery industry has a strong case for exemption, it believes.

"The horticultural industry recognises its environmental responsibilities and has been taking huge strides in reducing the energy it uses," said Mr Gill.

The NFU puts the case for an exemption to the Commons Environ-ment Committee on Jan 27. &#42