The potato industry is the second sector to vote against statutory AHDB levies. The latest overwhelming rejection follows the earlier horticulture sector’s vote against its AHDB levy. The Board says it is deeply disappointed, but it is up to ministers to decide what happens next – the result is advisory rather than binding.
AHDB Potato Sector income for 2020/21 is estimated at £6.5 million, most of which comes from the statutory levy, with a small contribution from commercial research work.
The potato poll saw 66.4% of voters against the continuation of a levy, versus 33.6% in favour of it. Some 64% of levy payers participated with 1,196 eligible votes cast.
In the case of the horticulture vote, the AHDB controversially claimed that an analysis of that vote by size of levy paying business showed that the majority of the industry by value actually supported the levy.
However, an analysis of the potato sector vote by the value of levy paid – carried out by UK Engage, the independent administrator of the vote – still showed 63.2% against the levy and 36.8% in favour. The result was the same when analysed by the potato buyer levy and the potato grower levy – overall buyers voted 82.1% against and 17.9% in favour, while 64.3% of growers voted no and 35.7% for the levy.
“I’m deeply disappointed,” says AHDB chair Nicholas Saphir. “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 the GB potato industry and make a decision on the future role of a statutory potato levy.”
Defra Minister Victoria Prentis MP adds: “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.”
The ballot outturn report from UK Engage is published on the AHDB website.