AHDB pushes for industry use of residual potato levy fund

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The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is asking ministers to consider using residual potato levy funds as a grant to support industry initiatives.

Seven projects, ran by “umbrella” organisation GB Potatoes that helps co-ordinate the UK’s potato supply, will cover a wide range of topics.

Some will address industry management of nutrients, transparency of chemical- and potato-based data and industry reputation.

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Others look at on-farm solutions for various problems, including addressing potato blight, aphid monitoring and implementing tools to tackle virus management.

The recommendation comes following the wind down of levy payer activities within the sector and is supported by main potato membership organisations.

Currently, any AHDB grant is subject to ministerial approval.

Support for the proposal has also been given in letters from the NFU, the British Potato Trade Association and four other major industry platers.

Graham Wilkinson, AHDB chief executive said: “The GB Potatoes proposals have wide written support from all the main industry membership trade organisations and also meet the AHDB Board’s legal obligation to use levy funds to benefit the sector.

“Grant funding would guarantee support in key areas of industry need over the next few years and give the industry the best chance to develop a self-sustaining voluntary funding model into the future.”

After the sale of the AHDB Potatoes’ Sutton Bridge Experimental Unit, they hold approx. £1.8m of potato reserves, of which £400k must be set aside for potential residual liabilities.

The proposed grant will be tapered over three to five years, reducing each year as GB Potatoes increases its flow of voluntary industry funding.

If approved, it will comprise £1.372m over the first three years and a total of £426,200 for years four and five.

Scott Walker, GB Potatoes chief executive said: “Our proposed initiatives are designed to confront industry obstacles, nurturing resilience and are for the benefit of the entire supply chain.

“To provide oversight, on project implementation, monitoring, and evaluation, we will establish an industry advisory committee comprising industry stakeholders to work with GB Potatoes to ensure that all growers benefit from the residual levy funds.”

The next steps will be to submit a grant proposal and AHDB board recommendation to Ministers for their consideration.

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