Potato industry leaders who are driving forward proposals for a new representative organisation funded by voluntary subscriptions say they have a “clear mandate” to take plans to the next stage.
The group tentatively known as GB Potatoes has held meetings in Angus, Aberdeenshire, the Black Isle, the Royal Highland showground and venues across England where they set out their ideas for a body that would fill the void created by the industry’s rejection of the AHDB Potatoes levy.
Details of three suggested strands of funding were outlined at the meetings.
For growers the proposed contribution would be £5-£10 per hectare (around 20% of the AHDB levy), for first purchasers (who previously did not contribute to the levy) the fee would be 5-10p per tonne, and agronomy companies, packers, processors and other service providers would be asked to contribute £250 for each £100,000 of trade.
All the figures are provisional and would have to be agreed by an appointed board.
The group says that if it is able to get support from even half of all seed and ware growers in the UK the structure as currently proposed would net around £475,000 – £500,000 per year.
The funds would be used to fight the industry’s corner with governments, coordinate research, development and innovation, and maintain essential services such as blight and aphid monitoring which were previously funded by AHDB levy payers.
Agrico UK executive director Archie Gibson, who is driving forward the proposals in Scotland, said the feedback from those who attended the meetings was that they were willing to contribute to a new organisation.
“There was an absolute recognition for the need for an overarching organisation such as GP Potatoes to champion the cause of the sector and all its different segments so that we could engage with government officials and ministers in all the devolved administrations,” he said.
“We got a green light to carry on, and we are now writing to all interested parties asking if they are willing to put their money where their mouths are.
“We will also ask if they are willing to complete a declaration setting out how much they grow or what tonnage they buy.”
Mr Gibson said he accepted not everyone would contribute towards a voluntary subscription, but data could be managed to avoid “freeloaders”.
One of the most pressing issues for any new body would be restoring seed potato trade with Europe, however Mr Gibson said it was essential to have a “relevant offer” that would reflect all aspects of the industry.