Farming unions have attacked the UK government’s decision not to extend higher energy relief for intensive energy users including horticulture and poultry, warning that domestic food production will suffer.
The Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS) will close on 31 March, to be replaced in April by a new Energy Bills Discount Scheme (EBDS), which offers far less protection to businesses faced with soaring energy bills.
Some industries, including food processing and manufacturing, will be eligible for additional support for their energy bills under the Energy and Trade Intensive Industries (ETII) scheme.
However, chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed in his Spring Budget on Wednesday (15 March) that the government has excluded energy intensive farming sectors such as horticulture, pigs and poultry from the ETII scheme.
NFU president Minette Batters said hard-hit horticulture and poultry businesses had been striving to keep the nation fed while dealing with high energy bills and soaring costs.
“It seems irresponsible that the ETII scheme completely overlooks primary food production, not to mention it being wholly at odds with the government’s own ambition to produce more home-grown fruit and vegetables,” she said.
“It begs the question: where does boosting Britain’s food security fit into the Treasury’s growth plans?”
NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy said when the EBRS closed at the end of March, many food-producing businesses would struggle to absorb the huge hikes in energy prices, leaving them on “an energy cost cliff-edge”.
Mr Kennedy said overlooking the horticulture, pigs and poultry sectors in the ETII scheme failed to address food security concerns and “raises the prospect of more empty shelves appearing in stores”. NFU Scotland would continue to lobby for these industries to be properly recognised under ETII, he added.
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