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Levy payers vote against AHDB Potato Levy

It follows the vote against the continuation of AHDB Horticulture last month

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Levy payers vote against AHDB Potato Levy

The potato sector has voted against the continuation of the statutory levy, with the decision on what happens next passed to Ministers.

 

A request for a ballot was handed to AHDB late last year and the ballot process started in mid-February following the conclusion of the ballot for AHDB Horticulture.

 

But AHDB will continue to collect the levy for the 2021/22 year.

 

Ballot

 

The ballot was run on the basis of one levy payer, one vote and independent company UK Engage administered the vote process.


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Overall voter turnout was 64 per cent with 1,196 eligible votes cast. The No vote against the continuation of a levy was 66.4 per cent versus the Yes vote of 33.6 per cent.

 

Voting analysis by UK Engage according to value of levy paid, showed a similar picture of 63.2 per cent No votes versus Yes votes of 36.8 per cent.

 

Splitting the result into the two separate potato levies - the potato buyer levy and the potato grower levy - overall buyers voted 82.1 per cent No and 17.9 per cent Yes. The growers voted 64.3 per cent No and 35.7 per cent Yes.

 

AHDB Chair Nicholas Saphir said: “I’m deeply disappointed. The voting information reported by UK Engage shows that a clear majority of the potato industry feels they are not getting enough value from the current levy set-up.

 

Decision

 

“It is now down to Ministers to weigh up all the various factors about GB potato industry and make a decision on the future role of a statutory potato levy.”

 

The decision was now passed to Defra Ministers and the Devolved Administrations. They were not bound by the result of the ballot, but Environment Secretary George Eustice promised to uphold the horticulture result at this year’s NFU Conference.

 

Defra Minister Victoria Prentis said: "We will now take these results and scrutinise them closely before making a decision on the future of the Potato levy. A joint decision with Scottish and Welsh Ministers will be made after the Scottish and Welsh government elections.

 

“In the meantime AHDB will continue to collect levy returns from the industry for the 2021/22 year.”

 

Reaction

 

Vegetable and potato producer John Bratley, one of the three Lincolnshire growers who organised the request for a ballot, said the news was not a surprise after the result of their private ballot last year.

 

“It is interesting that the larger growers have voted the strongest to walk away from AHDB,” he said.

 

“If they cannot make sense of AHDB, what chance does everybody else have?”

 

On the Minister’s comments AHDB would continue to collect levy returns for 2021/22 he said it showed Ms Prentis had ‘very little, if any’ concept of the problems potato farmers were facing.

 

He highlighted the wet weather in Autumn 2019 and the issues of selling crop during the Covid-19 crisis.

 

“They are talking about the reopening of restaurants in May. That is the end of the storage season,” he said.

“It is a glib statement with no account taken of the industry.”

 

He added it the ‘heavy weights’ and smaller growers had voted together to end the levy.

 

“They have seen AHDB’s advertising. Everyone has seen what they will lose,” he said.

 

“The industry has taken one look at it and said no.”

NFU horticulture and potatoes board chairman Ali Capper said: “This result is a clear signal that the majority of potato growers in England and Wales do not believe their levy is delivering tangible benefits or value for their businesses.

“As with the result of the AHDB Horticulture levy ballot, we expect Ministers to respect this result and to fully engage with levy-payers as part of their decision making.

“Elements such as research and development and work on plant protection products, currently delivered by AHDB Potatoes, will remain crucial for businesses, so it is important there is clarity on the future as soon as possible.

"This will ensure businesses are able to prepare how they work on these areas and who with.”

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