Government U-turn on silage plastic wrap tax for livestock farmers

Livestock farmers across the UK have welcomed the change of heart by the UK Treasury which will now see silage wrap excused the £200 a tonne plastic packaging tax due to have been introduced in April.
Sarah CowieSarah Cowie
Sarah Cowie

Following a strenuous lobbying exercise, industry bodies, including NFU Scotland, announced yesterday that they had succeeded in convincing MPs and the UK Government that the wrap should remain outside the list of products subjected to the new tax.

A highly specialised product, the primary purpose of which is to enable the fermentation process needed to produce the silage the Treasury accepted that the wrap’s use was a ‘non-packaging function’, making it eligible for exemption.

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NFU Scotland’s Environmental Resources Policy Manager Sarah Cowie said: “We welcome this decision that properly recognises the integral role that plastic wrap plays in the production of silage. With input prices soaring, avoiding a taxation cost of £200 per tonne of wrap is also very welcome at this time.”

She said that appropriate alternatives to plastic wrap had yet to be developed - but added that farmers and crofters remained committed to farming in the most environmentally friendly way.

“That sees widespread industry uptake of the schemes already available to collect silage film from farms, crofts and collection centres and recycle it.

Cowie added that the union also wanted to see support for research and development of affordable and technically suitable silage films with more recycled plastic content or produced from alternatives to plastic.

However, on another front, the union warned that the political tension around the situation in Ukraine was doing little to ease the spiralling price of fertiliser which has taken place in recent months.

And NFU Scotland crops policy manager David Michie urged all those who use fertiliser to ‘get the calculator out and plan’ in the face of prices which have surged from £200 per tonne a year ago to more than £600 per tonne now.

Michie said that some industry experts were predicting that the fertiliser shortfall across Europe could continue for the foreseeable future and that gas prices – a key driver of fertiliser prices – could remain high until 2023.

“On top of everything, conflict between Russia (a major supplier of gas) and Ukraine (a major grain producer) would have a big impact on the price of fertiliser and grain.”

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Advising farmers to do the math before finalising cropping plans, he said that while grain prices had risen on the year, this was only by a fraction of the increase in fertiliser and other input costs.

But, putting a spin on the situation, he added: “If these high prices are the new normal, it could drive innovation, incentivising the development and uptake of new and existing approaches to soil management to improve nutrient use efficiency.

“Getting the right nutrients in the right place at the right time within a field will be much more efficient, increasing yield, reducing costs, and reducing the risk of nitrogen loss to water and the air. This will benefit farm businesses and the environment: a win-win.”



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