Farming and food production must be viewed as critical industries when the UK Government announces its review of the Energy Bill Relief Scheme, expected before Christmas.
Failure to extend the support offered to food and agri-businesses beyond 31 March 2023 will simply condemn consumers to a further escalation in food prices and undermine the nation’s already fragile food security.
The impact of electricity costs and having the energy cost cap for farm and agri-food businesses extended has been a lobbying priority in recent visits by officeholders and staff to Westminster. Last month (November), NFUS also submitted a response the UK Government’s consultation on the current Energy Bill Relief Scheme review.
As President Martin Kennedy explained: “NFUS has called on the UK Government to commit to provide an extended energy cost cap for farm and agri-food businesses.
“As we demonstrated throughout the pandemic, agriculture, and the commitment to keep food and drink on the table, is clearly a key part of the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI). It is vitally important for the farming sector and for consumers that a price cap on electricity is retained for the agricultural sector.
“Providing that support to our sector will not only keep the nation fed but help to dampen down further food price inflation and be of genuine benefit to our hard-pressed consumers.
“Without a cap on electricity prices, it would compound the unprecedented increases in other inputs such as fertiliser, fuel and animal feed that are threatening to make production unviable.
“A membership survey, conducted in the autumn, highlighted what a burden un-capped electricity prices would be. The cost increase faced by many sectors, including the use of cold stores for our potatoes, fruit and veg, was a main focal point within our submission on the energy bill. It included an example of one vegetable grower reporting a rise from 12p per unit to 71p per unit, predicting that their electricity bill would jump from around £140,000 to over £800,000.
“We anticipate that there will be a response to the energy bill scheme review before Christmas and this will be communicated to members as soon as we get sight of it.
“Until then, we will continue to press Governments at both Westminster and Holyrood on the absolute need for food and agri-businesses to be part of an extended cap on electricity prices.”