The Budget could help Northern Ireland farmers to harness alternative crops for energy but further rises in fuel duty will have a disproportionate effect on the cost of living for rural dwellers, the Ulster Farmers Union has warned.
The union said it had repeatedly called on the Government to reduce fuel duty to offset the rise in costs which farmers face — but duty on fuel has instead been raised.
UFU president Graham Furey said: “Approximately two-thirds of fuel costs are tax and the Government should recognise that this ongoing taxation policy is having a damaging effect on our agri-food industry competitiveness.
“Farming families and rural dwellers tend to have limited or no access to public transport services and have longer travelling distances. Rising fuel costs are having a greater impact on these rural families and this is another issue which we will continue to highlight to the Treasury.
“It is clear that this and future Budgets will have an emphasis on green and environmental issues. For farmers, they continue to offer a solution to many of our environmental challenges, particularly with local farmers’ ability to grow alternative crops for energy or fuel.
“Indeed, Northern Ireland growers have been some of the first in the UK to advance the growing of crops such as willow and oilseed rape for alternative uses. However, this potential has still not been properly harnessed in Northern Ireland. This Budget may offer new incentives to develop this area of land use.”