Agri businesses must be eligible for higher energy relief, says Ulster Farmers' Union

Concerns are growing that the UK government may have “disregarded the importance” of local farming and food production, by dismissing farms as high-energy businesses in its review of the Energy Bill Relief Scheme, the Ulster Farmers’ Union has said.

The new Energy Bills Discount Scheme, running from April 2023 until March 2024, will be available to everyone on a non-domestic contract including businesses and voluntary sector organisations. High energy business, that are ‘particularly vulnerable to high energy prices due to their energy intensive and trade exposure’, will receive a higher level of support, subject to a maximum discount.

The UFU is now waiting on further information on the scheme to be published.

Maximum discounts for EBDS are set at:

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says concerns are growing that the UK government may have disregarded the importance of local farming and food production, by dismissing farms as high-energy businesses in it’s review of the Energy Bill Relief Scheme

• Electricity - £19.61 per megawatt hour (MWh) with a price threshold of £302 per MWh

• Gas - £6.97 per MWh with a price threshold of £107 per MWh

Meanwhile maximum discounts and price threshold for energy intensive sectors are:

• Electricity - £89 per megawatt hour (MWh) with a price threshold of £185 per MWh

• Gas - £40 per MWh with a price threshold of £99 per MWh

UFU deputy president, William Irvine, said: “The prospect of Northern Ireland farmers and growers missing out on the highest level of energy support from April of this year, is extremely worrying. It has the potential to seriously impact our food security at a time when we need to be doing all we can to support our food producers and develop our self-sufficiency.

“Energy is a critical source within food production and farmers are heavily reliant on it. Especially those that rear livestock and store fresh produce. The apple sector being a notable example and how they use their cold stores up to September.

“In similarity to most inputs over the past year, farmers have had to absorb the extra costs in order to produce the high-quality food consumers expect which made it extremely difficult to sustain their business as well as provide for a home. While there may be relative relief with an easing of wholesale energy prices, many farmers will struggle to absorb huge hikes in energy in the year ahead if they do not get the necessary support.

“The UFU will lobby to ensure all agricultural businesses are eligible for the higher rate of relief.”

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