AHDB has today formally announced a ballot on the continuation of the statutory potato levy will go ahead in the New Year.
The yes or no vote on the future of AHDB Potatoes and the work it delivers on behalf of GB potatoes growers and buyers will take place from mid-February 2021 for four weeks.
The confirmation comes after 8.5 per cent of potatoes levy payers, or 176 potato growing or buying businesses, submitted valid requests for a ballot. Under statute, five per cent of levy payers are needed to request a ballot for it to proceed.
The voting period will open in mid-February after a separate ballot on the statutory levy for horticulture has closed, to avoid confusion.
AHDB will contact potato growers and buyers in the coming weeks to ensure they are aware of the ballot. Each potato growing or buying business who has paid levy in the 12 months up to the ballot closing is entitled to one vote.
AHDB chair Nicholas Saphir said: “We are in no way underestimating the huge variation in sentiment towards AHDB but we also want our levy payers to make an informed decision about our continued existence and what they would lose if the levy was stopped.
“We would urge all potato growing and buying businesses to talk to us about our work and future plans through the town hall meetings or one-to-one with their regional knowledge exchange manager.”
Lincolnshire potato grower John Bratley said the numbers needed to call the ballot had been easily found but he was unsure what the outcome would be.
“I am paying a lot of money but the support I get is nothing like what I would get paying someone else to do it,” he said.
He added the new AHDB strategy emphasised potatoes and horticulture ‘only because they had been forced to’.
Mr Bratley said the document seemed to have a lot of promises and talks of consultation but no substance.
Potatoes sector board interim chair Alison Levett said she looked forward to having constructive conversations with grower and buyer levy payers about where the levy is invested.
She added AHDB was confident it could demonstrate the benefits the levy had made for growers.
For contact details of regional knowledge exchange managers and other AHDB potatoes specialists, visit ahdb.org.uk/meet-the-team-potatoes
Once complete, the results of the ballot will be submitted to the farming Ministers in England, Wales and Scotland, who will decide on the future of the statutory potato levy.