The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answer on 13th December 2022:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made, if any, of the need to classify (1) agriculture, and (2) horticulture, as a vulnerable sector.
Lord Benyon (Con): We understand that the global spike in oil and gas prices has affected the price of agricultural commodities, which are always closely correlated to energy costs. The Energy Bill Relief Scheme will provide a price reduction to make sure that all businesses, including farmers, food producers, manufacturers and packagers, are protected from excessively high energy bills over the winter period.
HM Treasury will publish a review into the operation of the scheme to inform decisions on future support after March 2023. The review will focus in particular on identifying the most vulnerable non-domestic customers and how the government will continue assisting them with energy costs.
HM Government is also supporting businesses to improve their energy efficiency by at least 20% by 2030. This could deliver up to £6 billion in cost savings by 2030. We have extended the Energy Intensive Industries Compensation Scheme by three years and more than doubled its budget.
We recognise that for the pig and poultry sectors, animal feed is a substantial input cost. As of 1st June, we have successfully concluded the removal of Section 232 tariffs, allowing us to remove the 25% tariff on US maize imports, a key ingredient for animal feed.
Defra has a collaborative relationship with industry which allows us to effectively respond to disruption, should it occur. This was successfully demonstrated in response to unprecedented disruption to both supply and demand throughout COVID-19.
We continue to keep the market situation under review through the UK Agriculture Market Monitoring Group, which monitors UK agricultural markets including price, supply, inputs, trade and recent developments. We have also increased our engagement with industry to supplement our analysis with real time intelligence.
HMG recognises the importance of the ornamental and edible horticulture sectors, both for ensuring a reliable and sustainable supply of fresh produce, plants and cut flowers, but also for its valuable contribution to our economy and the benefits it brings to people’s health and wellbeing. We have a high degree of self-sufficiency in many of those crops suited to our growing conditions, and our innovative and enterprising growers are exploring ways to maximise this further by optimising growing conditions to increase yields and extend growing seasons. However we do not underestimate the impact on our growers that increases in the cost of a range of inputs, including high energy prices, is having on production. We monitor the situation closely through UK Agriculture Market Monitoring Group, which monitors UK agricultural markets including price, supply, inputs, trade and recent developments. We have increased our engagement with the sector to supplement our analysis with real time intelligence.