A ballot to decide the future of the AHDB Potato levy has concluded and the voting report has been passed to Ministers for a decision on what happens next.
The call for a ballot on the continuation of a statutory levy in the potato sector came late last year and a yes/no vote started in mid-February, on the basis of one levy payer, one vote. An independent company, UK Engage, administered the vote process.
The 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.
“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 ballot outturn report by UK Engage, the independent company which ran the ballot, has been published on the AHDB website.
The ballot process, laid out in Statute, means that a ballot is held in order to inform Ministers how the industry feels on the value of a statutory levy. The outturn of the ballot must be passed to Defra Ministers and the Devolved Administrations to then make a decision on the future, however they are not bound by the ballot.
Defra Minister Victoria Prentis MP 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.”
Responding to the result, 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.”