Potato growers vote to scrap AHDB levy
A ballot to decide the future of the AHDB Potato levy has concluded and the voting report has been passed to Ministers for a decision on what happens next.
The call for a ballot on the continuation of a statutory levy in the potato sector came late last year and a yes/no vote started in mid-February, on the basis of one levy payer, one vote. An independent company, UK Engage, administered the vote process.
The overall voter turnout was 64 per cent with 1,196 eligible votes cast. The No vote against the continuation of a levy was 66.4 per cent versus the Yes vote of 33.6 per cent.
Voting analysis by UK Engage according to value of levy paid, showed a similar picture of 63.2 per cent No votes versus Yes votes of 36.8 per cent.
Splitting the result into the two separate potato levies – the potato buyer levy and the potato grower levy – overall buyers voted 82.1 per cent No and 17.9 per cent Yes. The growers voted 64.3 per cent No and 35.7 per cent Yes.
AHDB Chair Nicholas Saphir said: “I’m deeply disappointed. The voting information reported by UK Engage shows that a clear majority of the potato industry feels they are not getting enough value from the current levy set-up.
“It is now down to Ministers to weigh up all the various factors about GB potato industry and make a decision on the future role of a statutory potato levy.”
The ballot outturn report by UK Engage, the independent company which ran the ballot, has been published on the AHDB website.
The ballot process, laid out in Statute, means that a ballot is held in order to inform Ministers how the industry feels on the value of a statutory levy. The outturn of the ballot must be passed to Defra Ministers and the Devolved Administrations to then make a decision on the future, however they are not bound by the ballot.
Defra Minister Victoria Prentis said: “We will now take these results and scrutinise them closely before making a decision on the future of the Potato levy. A joint decision with Scottish and Welsh Ministers will be made after the Scottish and Welsh government elections. In the meantime AHDB will continue to collect levy returns from the industry for the 2021/22 year.”
One Cambridgeshire farmer said ” The timing of the vote could have been better, with potatoes prices at the moment so low. Perhaps this will help to reevaluate our needs, and if ministers decide to keep a levy, we will be more involved in how the money is spent in the future.”
Austen Dack Chippy Chat Editor said. “The vote is a clear message that the majority of farmers and merchants are unhappy with the the current strategy of AHDB Potatoes. Our own platform (from) ‘Field to Frier’ which we have developed with Isle of Ely Produce, has crowned seven national chip shop champions, seen over 600 shops attend a potato based educational open day, and also developed a new Chip Shop Ambassador role, testing new varieties at the coal face.” It is these kind of investments that we would like to see more of collectively , in order to promote the Nation’s favourite dish.”
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