'Crushing blow to farmers': Outrage over proposal to reduce RHI tariffs

Farmers have concerns the proposals would make Northern Ireland’s poultry industry less competitive
Farmers have concerns the proposals would make Northern Ireland’s poultry industry less competitive

Northern Irish farmers have spoken of their outrage over government proposals to reduce Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) tariffs.

The Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) has called the Department of Economy (DfE) proposal 'completely unacceptable' which would 'devastate' farmers.

It said the plans would ultimately make Northern Ireland’s poultry industry less competitive, as many poultry farmers are involved in the RHI scheme.

Tariffs offered in other regions, such as Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, 'more accurately' reflect the cost of installing, running and maintaining boilers, the union said.

Farmers in these regions are able to produce birds at a lower cost making them more competitive in the market place.

UFU deputy president, Victor Chestnutt said: “A further reduction in tariffs is a crushing blow to farmers who entered the scheme - encouraged by politicians, government departments, and processors - in good faith and have used the scheme responsibly.

“Farmers didn’t design the flawed scheme and it is utterly shameful they are being made scapegoats for the failures of others.”

Farmers have contacted the union highlighting their concerns over the future of their businesses as a result of these proposals.

Mr Chestnutt said: “Many are angry and feel conned by the politicians and civil servants who ultimately have a duty of care to the public, which includes the farmers who entered into the RHI scheme.”

The aim of the RHI scheme, introduced in 2012, is to deliver a greener industry and final product, by reducing fossil fuel use and improving animal welfare standards.

In 2018, DfE consulted on the future of the scheme. However, the UFU said the consultation was based on 'fundamentally flawed' assumptions.

“The proposed plans do not add up. Under the new proposals farmers stand to lose £10,000 per year per boiler, which when you factor in loan repayments, maintenance and fuel costs is completely unsustainable,” Mr Chestnutt added.

“The danger is that these destructive proposals will be pushed through Westminster without an adequate level of legislative scrutiny and no regard for the devastating impact on recipients.

“It is another example of a department riding roughshod over the public while there are no local Ministers or NI Executive to be held accountable to,” he said.