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AHDB refutes accusation it could become 'Defra puppet'

The boss of AHDB has insisted the board is ‘sharpening up its act’ in order to ensure it delivers value for money to its levy payers.


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Chief executive Jane King, who took up the role in January, was responding to farmer criticism about how the board was being run, including how it spent levy money and how the ongoing restructure would impact farmers and growers.

 

Farmers Guardian has been contacted by a number of producers in recent months who were deeply concerned about the direction AHDB was taking under the leadership of Ms King and its chairman Peter Kendall.

 

Ms King said the organisation, which employs 430 staff and receives an income of £60 million, ’is a good organisation but it can definitely be a lot better’.

 

“We are having a good, hard look at it and trying to reorganise it so we deliver smarter, more effectively and deliver better value for money," she said.

 

AHDB used the Cereals event to launch the rebrand of its six sector boards; AHDB Beef and Lamb, AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds, AHDB Dairy, AHDB Horticulture, AHDB Pork and AHDB Potatoes; as part of its reorganisation.

 

Ms King said the sectors with ‘common ground’ could work in a more ‘joined up’ fashion and share resources.


Scrutiny

She added: “We have got to make the levy count and, quite rightly, we have been up for some scrutiny from our levy community and from Government.”

 

Ms King said there would also be a focus on ‘outcomes rather than just output’ to measure if its work had benefited members.

 

“That is not about maintaining status quo, it is about a step change,” she said.

 

“We are ambitious about the industry and want to help it grow and become more sustainable. To do that we have got to sharpen up our act here.”

 

Reacting to sheep farmers’ concerns not enough money was being spent on promoting British lamb, the former journalist said the board was evaluating how it spent levy cash.

 

She said AHDB was committed to long-term projects which could not be just ‘switched off’, ‘but we are doing a lot of work – because of the hardship – in beef, lamb and dairy; briefing producers and retailers, talking to the industry about what’s happening and why and providing market analysis’.

 

“We are not opposed to promotion per se, but we need to be sure for the levy payer we are adding value because marketing is expensive,” she added.

 

She said she could empathise with levy payers’ concerns the organisation may become ‘a puppet’ for cash-strapped Defra.

 

“There is no question, we would have to be very clear with Defra about what is the right thing for us to do with levy payer money,” she added.

 


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