The trio of growers who instigated the ballot on the future of a statutory levy for the horticulture sector have called for an immediate end to the fee following the vote against it.
The Lincolnshire growers – Simon Redden, Peter Thorold and John Bratley – triggered a vote on the future of a horticulture levy collected by the Agriculture and Horticulture and Development Board (AHDB) which resulted in 61% of growers voting to abolish the levy.
The trio have hit out at reports growers could still be charged a levy for the 2021/22 financial year, despite the result of the ballot and assurances from UK Environment Secretary George Eustice that the vote will be respected.
“Despite receiving an income from growers of around £7 million last year and sitting on reserves of £5m, AHDB Horticulture is now suggesting that it needs another £7m from hard-pressed growers to wind-up its operations, at a time when some of the largest names in horticultural production are sadly closing their businesses or completely changing their cropping patterns to cope in an increasingly cut-throat sector,” said Mr Redden, who grows flowers near Spalding.
He, along with Mr Thorold and Mr Bratley, called on AHDB to accept the outcome of the vote and described any attempts to charge horticulture levies for the current financial year as “displays of breath-taking arrogance”.
AHDB chairman, Nicholas Saphir, said: “It is now down to Ministers to weigh up all the various factors about GB horticulture and make a decision on the future role of a horticulture levy.”
A Defra spokeswoman said the Government was unable to comment on the horticulture levy while a vote on the future of the potato levy at AHDB was ongoing. The potato ballot closes on March 17.