Potato industry leaders are finalising the details of a new voluntary subscription organisation which would coordinate research work previously carried out by AHDB Potatoes.
The Growers for a Better Levy Group (GBLG) have been in detailed discussions with stakeholders for several months about the establishment of an organisation which could be outlined to the industry within weeks.
One member of GBLG, Archie Gibson of Agrico UK Ltd at Glamis, insisted there would be no compulsory element to the proposed body, and there will be no statutory levy.
“Discussions are continuing over how it could be managed equitably, but the group is committed to an all-industry solution,” he said.
“This is an opportunity to create something that is focused and relevant to the industry and the group is trying to ensure we come up with something which will result in as much consensus and collaboration and support for the model as possible.
“Then we would have to put in place the infrastructure to manage it.”
Mr Gibson said he envisaged it would require “substantially less” of a financial contribution from individual businesses than that levied by AHDB Potatoes.
One of the group’s priorities is to salvage some of the equipment from AHDB’s Sutton Bridge storage research centre which is scheduled to be closed by March.
Mr Gibson said: “We are attempting to recover some of the assets which are removable. They are too valuable to the industry to be destroyed, and we are trying to lead a consortium to pitch to AHDB to take them on.”
There is a suggestion that storage research in Scotland could be done in future at the Potato Quality Centre which is proposed for Forfar as part of the Tay Cities Deal.
Dr Phil Burgess, the lead researcher at the innovation organisation, Scottish Potatoes, said the withdrawal of CIPC and the introduction of new chemicals meant the continuation of storage research was an immediate priority for the industry.
He referred to a growers’ poll conducted on Twitter this week which indicated strong support for independent research.
“We need a collaborative approach across the industry to avoid duplication, confusing messages and costs,” he said.
“A grower-led organisation is key to bringing independent research organisations together. Scottish Potatoes would work with anyone to enable the model to develop.”
Meanwhile, as stakeholders attempt to find a way forward for research, Mr Gibson said the industry was calling on government to fund the continuation of blight and aphid monitoring in the short term.
He said: “It has been handled by AHDB in the past and costs £55,000 per year for aphid monitoring and £85,000 per year for blight. We are just asking for it to be covered for two years while the industry gets back on its feet.”