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AHDB attempts to woo potato growers ahead of crucial levy vote

The ballot runs until March 17.
The ballot runs until March 17.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has pledged to become a less bureaucratic organisation in a bid to woo growers ahead of a crucial vote on the future of a statutory levy for the potato sector.

The organisation’s chairman, Nicholas Saphir, told an online meeting of Scottish potato growers that work was underway for a “radical change” at the levy body, which he described as “over-structured and overly bureaucratic”.

The ballot on whether or not a statutory levy should continue for the potato sector runs until March 17. It follows a similar vote for the horticulture sector, where 61% of producers rejected the continuation of their sector’s levy.

Both Mr Saphir and AHDB potatoes board chairman, Alison Levett, used the meeting to warn growers what they could lose if they vote against keeping a levy.

Ms Levett described a vote to keep the levy as a a vote to deliver a “big programme of change”, while Mr Saphir urged growers to ask themselves “what next?” if they are deciding to vote against the levy.

Growers in attendance at the meeting quizzed the organisation about its spend on marketing, its engagement with the seed potato sector, and about divergences in inspection regimes in Scotland and England.

When asked if the potential loss of both the potato and horticulture sector levies could put the future of AHDB at risk, Mr Saphir said although it would result in a 20% cut in income, it would be “traumatic but it [AHDB] won’t suffer terminal decline”.

He added: “I have a deep worry, personally, that if AHDB ceases to provide a horticulture and potatoes role I don’t see anything that will replace it.”

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