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Minette Batters said in the meeting that she was at her ‘wit’s end’ with the government following the budget announcement

NFU president Minette Batters has expressed fresh concern that protected crops and poultry have continued to be left off the government’s Energy & Trade Intensive Industries support scheme.

Giving evidence to House of Lords Horticultural Sector Committee meeting on Thursday, Batters said she was at her “wit’s end” with the government following last week’s budget which, despite campaigning from the NFU, had not added the two sectors to the energy support scheme.

“For poultry and for horticulture, but for protected crops in particular, this entry into the ETII was absolutely needed,” she explained.

The ETII enabled eligible businesses, in sectors decided by the government, to access an additional discount on gas and electricity from April, when current support ends. The protected crops sector was left off the list to complaints from the NFU, which has campaigned for its addition, most recently in its horticultural growth plan.

“I am beyond frustrated, quite honestly,” said Batters. “I am a huge fan of the Royal Botanical Gardens and I am delighted that they are part of the ETII scheme but it really poses an enormous challenge to the sector.

“It’s acted for a sector that’s not producing food, why didn’t it act for a sector that is producing food?”, she said. 

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Growers have faced significant rises in input costs, particularly in energy, where prices rose by an average of 165% in 2022 according to a poll late last year by Promar International for the NFU.

“Why, when we are facing into so many challenges of salad rationing, would we be preventing our own growers from entering a scheme that would make an enormous difference and would give them some security?,” Batters added, referencing ongoing shortages of core salad lines in retailers.

She went on to say that she was “astounded” with the situation and that she didn’t think it was going to change any time soon as “growers are not being given the signals that would help them produce”.

In the same meeting James Barnes, chair of the Horticultural Trades Association, echoed Batters’ claim that there wasn’t “anything specific that greatly impacted our sector” in the budget.

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