THE UK’s four farming unions have written to the government calling for an extension to the energy price support currently offered to poultry producers and the horticulture sector.
From the beginning of April, the energy price cap for businesses will be replaced by a discount scheme that excludes poultry production.
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While the processing and preserving of poultrymeat will still receive support, primary production will not.
A letter to energy secretary Grant Shapps, signed by the presidents of NFU Scotland, NFU, NFU Cymru and Ulster Farmers’ Union, says the move risks food production.
The letter says: “From April 2023, the ETII scheme will provide high level energy relief to a number of sectors including food processing and manufacturing.
“However, it currently excludes primary agricultural production.
“When the Energy Bill Relief Scheme changes at the end of March, higher energy costs will be a challenge for all farmers. However, the situation will be acute for the poultry and horticulture sectors.
“Poultry businesses are reliant on gas and electricity to rear poultry and store fresh produce safely, and they will struggle to absorb the huge hikes in energy prices that they will face.”
“Furthermore, most businesses won’t be able to benefit from current low market prices until high-cost contracts expire.
“The government guidance under EBRS was to fix a contract. Those businesses who ignored Government advice to fix their contracts will now be the first to benefit from price drops.
“We are currently awaiting the publication of further guidance and urge you to review the classification for higher-level support.
“Energy prices are already seriously damaging our ability to produce food and from next month, many of our members’ businesses will face an energy cost cliff edge.”
It comes as MP Alec Shelbrook submitted a written question to Defra minister Mark Spencer what support the government was offering poultry farmers with rising energy costs.
Mr Spencer said: “Within the context of the wider economy, we do not consider there is a case for further financial support to the poultry sector at this time.
“We continue to keep the sector under close review, including through the UK Agriculture Market Monitoring Group, which monitors UK agricultural markets including price, supply, inputs, trade and recent developments.
“The UK poultry sector operates in an open market and the value of poultry commodities is established by those in the supply chain including farmers, processors, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers.
“We have already seen supply chains adjusting to address the challenges related to rising input costs, including feed, fuel, fertiliser and energy costs.