The future of AHDB Potatoes will be decided early next year when growers and traders get the opportunity to vote in a national ballot.
The levy board has confirmed that a yes or no vote on the future of the levy and the work AHDB Potatoes delivers will run for four weeks from mid-February.
The move follows valid requests for a ballot from 176 levy-paying potato growing or buying businesses – well above the 5% required.
Every potato growing or buying business which has paid levy in the 12 months up to the ballot closing is entitled to one vote. The ballot will be run by an independent company and the results will be submitted to the farming ministers in England, Wales and Scotland, who will decide on the future of the statutory potato levy which currently stands at £42.62 per planted hectare, and 18.58p per tonne for purchasers.
Potato grower and ballot co-organiser John Bratley, who grows between 220 and 280 ha of the crop each year, said a private ballot of 661 growers in July showed that 92% of producers feel current AHDB policies are of no, or marginal, benefit to their business and 80% of growers did not want to pay a statutory levy.
He added: “Like our colleagues in horticulture, potato growers are fed up with being forced to pay for an overly bureaucratic organisation which offers little or no benefit to professional growers who are increasingly working to secure a larger share of the same overall market. AHDB simply fails to understand the commercial reality of how growers’ markets work. In terms of its recently published plans for the next five years, where are the radical changes that both Defra and growers have been asking for?”
AHDB has said that it looks forward to having “constructive conversations” with levy payers, and has encouraged them to take part in virtual “town hall” meetings in January and February to hear more about the organisation’s new strategy.
However, Mr Bratley said the strategy document makes no mention of potatoes or horticulture in its ‘looking ahead’ section.