Farming:Planting the seeds of a new idea for the potato sector

SPO potato planningSPO potato planning
SPO potato planning
Those involved with the setting up of the proposed Seed Potato Organisation (SPO) hope to gain the views of growers on their planned approach at a major industry event taking place next month.

Formed with the intention of creating an independent, transparent, and democratic organisation, the SPO said it would be set up as a co-operative and run by seed growers for the benefit of its members – and the steering group wants to get the sector on-board.

“The AHDB model was rejected by growers,” said Black Isle grower, Jonnie Martin. “Having identified its failings, we now need to create an organisation specifically run by growers to benefit growers.”

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He said that the group behind SPO had been listening to growers’ views on what SPO should be and what it should do and hoped to touch base with more in the sector at the major sector event, Potatoes in Practice, which takes place at the James Hutton Balruddery farm near Dundee on August 11.

Early indication from meetings and responses to the on-line survey had indicated that most producers agreed with the idea of setting up an organisation to represent the interests of seed growers.

And early indications pointed towards this taking the form of a body which would provide seed potato representation to governments, support market development, and fund research services.

Aberdeenshire grower Colin Massie, who sits on the SPO steering committee said: “If seed growers don’t pull together to advance their own interests, then who else will?”

The committee had also gathered views on fees and were using this information to draft a budget and programme to meet growers’ priorities – with early indications being that each member would pay a proposed joining fee to be used as capital to establish the organisation along with an annual fee anticipated to be around £29 /ha in 2023.

Membership of SPO would not be confined to the country’s seed growers. The support of potato supply chain organisations would also be sought through Associate Membership - and ware growers were also welcome to get involved.

Members of the SPO will be in the seminar tent at Potatoes in Practice at 10.00am to present their ideas and will also be available at the organisation’s stand at the event and where they said they would be keen to chat to as many people as possible.

As Rodney Harrison, a grower from Kincardineshire, explained: “We need to listen to people. If we do our own thing and don’t get growers and the wider industry on board, we’re on a hiding to nothing.”

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The steering group said that the plan was for a lean organisation where growers set the agenda each year, which focused focusing on activities relevant to the seed industry, and which delivered value for money.

Full membership with voting rights would be open to all growers – and If there was sufficient interest from growers, it was anticipated that the new organisation would be launched in January 2023.

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