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GB Potatoes recruitment drive hit by apathy

GB Potatoes has so far failed to attract widespread support from producers and processors.
GB Potatoes has so far failed to attract widespread support from producers and processors.

Industry apathy is threatening the progress of the group which is aiming to unite the potato industry behind a voluntary representative body.

GB Potatoes, the fledgling organisation which was launched in the wake of the vote to abolish AHDB Potatoes, has so far failed to attract widespread support from producers and processors for its plans to co-ordinate a lean group which would defend the industry, co-ordinate research and development, and engage with Defra and the devolved administrations on key issues.

A virtual meeting hosted by GB Potatoes’ working group of nine to spread the word across the sector drew only a small audience of around 60 people, and the organisers admitted their efforts to communicate with the industry are being hampered by a lack of access to the national database of growers used by AHDB.

The new group is struggling to communicate with the industry as it doesn’t have access to a producer database.

The group’s aim is to attract 50% of growers to commit to the organisation and contribute towards the £500,000 required to get it off the ground. The proposed voluntary subscription is £10/ha for growers and 10p/tonne for processors from the first point of contact.

Industry reticence appears to be based on fears that GB Potatoes could turn into “AHDB Mark 2”, but the working group insists it has no intention of replicating the unwieldy organisation which became out of touch with grassroots levy payers.

Functions

Alex Godfrey, the immediate past chair of the English NFU’s potato board, told the meeting: “There are functions AHDB filled that won’t be picked up by any other body in the industry.

“There appears to be a belief among some that the NFU will adopt some of these functions, and I can tell you it won’t. NFU subscriptions are a fraction of the levy we were paying to AHDB Potatoes, and the NFU simply doesn’t have the resources to pick up those technical and reputational issues.

“GM Potatoes is how the potato industry is going to get a voice, it’s not going to happen any other way.”

Archie Gibson of Agrico UK is one of the Scottish representatives on the working group.

Archie Gibson is executive director of Agrico UK and a member of the GB Potatoes working group.

He warned the meeting the demise of AHDB had left a void in aphid monitoring and the fight against blight.

He added: “GB Potatoes presents a mechanism whereby it can rally people who are concerned about the future and the need for these sorts of centralised functions to come together to identify how we manage it.”

Growers are asked to make contact with the organisation through its website, www.gb-potatoes.co.uk or by email at info@gb-potatoes.co.uk

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