The ballot on the future of the AHDB potato levy opens this week – even as the Stoneleigh-based organisation reels from a decisive rejection by UK horticulture growers.
Tattie businesses who pay the statutory levy have a month to cast their votes on the future of AHDB Potatoes and the work it delivers after 176 potato growing or buying businesses submitted valid requests for a ballot – well above the number required.
The ballot is straightforward and will simply ask: “Do you think the statutory levy should continue?”
The potato sector’s opportunity to make its views known follows the announcement that 61% of horticulture producers voted against the continuation of their levy, with 39% supporting the status quo. The turnout was 69% of growers.
The three Lincolnshire growers who campaigned for the horticulture vote have accused AHDB chairman Nicholas Saphir of attempting to skew the result of the ballot by claiming that the result was “complex”.
The AHDB had pointed out in a news release that in terms of the value of the levy paid, the result was actually 57% in favour and 43% against.
Mr Saphir added: “The voting information reported by UK Engage shows different sentiment across different crop sectors and size of business – it is really a very complex picture.”
Spalding-based grower Simon Redden said: “Mr Saphir now appears to be blatantly trying to change the rules of the ballot to suit his own interpretation on the basis of total levy paid.
“This is clearly a desperate and disgraceful attempt to influence ministers whilst trampling on the views of the two-thirds of levy-payers who have voted to get rid of this statutory levy.”
Vegetable grower Peter Thorold said: “Contrary to the picture that Mr Saphir is trying to paint, this is not a complex interpretation – merely an assault on the democratic premise of one person, one vote.”
The AHDB declined to make any further comment.
Meanwhile, the levy board is continuing with its series of “town hall” meetings, where it is setting out what it believes it offers growers for their levy.
Details of dates can be found on the AHDB website.