Written by William Kellett
Campaigners against the compulsory Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) levy on potatoes have welcomed a conclusive ‘no’ vote, with 66.4% of voters opposed to the levy’s continuation.
Lincolnshire potato and vegetable grower John Bratley said:
“Looking at the voting analysis published by UK Engage these sentiments are shared by both growers and potato buyers, who also pay the levy, with businesses of almost every size voting decisively to scrap the compulsory levy.This clear vote shows that, like their colleagues in horticulture, potato growers across the UK have had enough of this expensive compulsory levy body which offers little in return, and doesn’t understand the realities of the marketplace that today’s modern businesses operate in.
“The results of the ballot vindicate our own polling last year which showed that most growers felt they received no benefit from AHDB and did not want to pay a levy.
“This discontent is not new. It has been brewing for years, but this is the first time that growers have been given a way to express their discontent with the system.”
‘This result has been so unanimous’
Flower grower Simon Redden, who was critical of attempts by the AHDB to weigh the result of the horticulture ballot by the amount of levy paid, also welcomed the result.
“When analysed by the amount of levy paid, 63.2% of levy payers voted against the continuation of the levy, despite the huge amount of time and money that the AHDB spent promoting itself before and during the ballot process.”This result has been so unanimous that Nicolas Saphir hasn’t even attempted to put a positive spin on it.
2021/2022 levy will be collected
As with the horticulture vote, the results are not binding on ministers, but given previous comments by Secretary of State George Eustice, the growers are confident that the result of the ballot will be honoured.
However, they are angry that Defra minister Victoria Prentis has already said that the 2021/2022 levy will be collected.
“It is therefore astounding that on the anniversary of the first lockdown, Victoria Prentice is seeking to take another £6 million from grower’s pockets.The potato industry is under extraordinary and unprecedented pressure from the legacy of flooding 18 months ago, and with the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in thousands of tonnes of unsold product, none of which are the fault of growers themselves.
“It is crass and indicates a lack of sympathy, suggesting that she is out of touch with the industry that she represents,” he concluded.
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