Around 50 growers in the vegetable, potato and cut flowers sectors have signed a petition to end the statutory levy
AHDB does not offer growers value for money and the levy should be made voluntary, according to a petition from the horticulture sector.
Growers have sent a petition to George Eustice, seen by Farmers Guardian, calling for the levy to become voluntary as growers in the sector were not receiving any benefit from their payments.
Speaking to Farmers Guardian, one grower in Lincolnshire who asked to remain anonymous said: “We have had enough of it. Their accounts are horrendous.
“We have got 50 names now from horticulture, potatoes and cut flowers.”
He said many growers were unaware of the consultation on the future of AHDB which led to the petition being launched, with the grower frustrated with the lack of promotion of the consultation.
The letters highlighted the difference between horticulture and other sectors, with the feeling the levy review was aimed at farming and those receiving subsidy payments and growing commodities, whereas horticulture were supplying supermarkets and garden centres with what was demanded by them.
AHDB horticulture chair Hayley Campbell-Gibbons said there had been a ‘healthy level of response’ and it would be interesting to see how many growers favour a voluntary levy.
“A voluntary levy would certainly focus the mind, although it could create a short-term culture and mind-set in what is a long-term industry.”
She said it was ‘no secret’ there was a range of view, but speaking to those who get involved with AHDB it ‘delivers enormous benefits’ but said perhaps it could be bolder in communicating these benefits.
“However, even in the few weeks I have been involved with the organisation, I can tell you there is no complacency.”
She added they should not see the closing of the review as ‘the end of the conversation’ and urged members to communicate with her.
While other sectors have been critical of some of AHDB’s work, the National Sheep Association (NSA) chairman Bryan Griffiths said the levy needed to be compulsory and he believed farmers were aware of the consultation, but NSA had been very active in raising awareness.
But he criticised suggestions from the CLA projects should have to take part in a bidding process, rather than funding staying in sector specific ‘silos’, which it resulted in duplication, unhelpful rivalry.
Mr Griffiths said sector specific funding was important as he did not want to see schemes promoting the sheep sector having to compete against projects in other sectors, such as arable.
“Our 10-week exercise with Defra and the Devolved Administrations sought the views of farmers, growers, processors and industry representatives on the role of the Agricultural and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and its funding.
“We will be publishing a summary of responses next year.”
Defra also said the consultation was extensively publicised through print, online and social media engagement and events were organised for stakeholders to seek views.