FARMERS in Northern Ireland are actively switching back to gas heating after losing faith in renewable energy, MPs have been told.

It follows cuts to Renewable Heat Incentive payments recently passed through parliament that will see average rates cut from £13,000 a year to about £2,000.

The claims were made at the latest meeting of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in Stormont on 30 April.

Farmers were scathing in their criticism of the cuts, with the Ulster Farmers Union saying 300 of its members with RHI installations were actively considering a switch back to fossil-fuel-based heating systems.

And Thomas Douglas, a UFU board member and broiler producer for Moy Park claimed the poultry industry in the country could become a “backwater”, unable to compete with producers in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

“In hindsight, we should never have bothered and put gas in and just burnt fossil fuels – we would have been far better off.”

He added that farmers had lost faith in the government’s ability to stick to its terms, and that banks would be unlikely to finance renewable installations in future.