The AHDB potato board may not have had its chips

With the potato sector’s levy-funded marketing and promotional body set to be wound-up, Scottish growers are being surveyed to check the baby isn’t being thrown out with the bathwater.

Potatoes on the menu

Following a resounding vote from potato growers across the UK in favour of dispensing with the services of the Agricultural and Horticultural Board (AHDB) in their sector, Scottish growers are being asked which of the functions in the board’s remit they viewed as most valuable and worth retaining in some form.

Previously an independent non-departmental public body known as the Potato Council, AHDB Potatoes was the result of an amalgamation of several independent sector bodies brought together under the AHDB name in April 2008. Many growers felt the service didn’t offer good value for the considerable levy payments they had to make.

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The survey is being conducted at a time when UK and devolved nation ministers are deciding on the fate of AHDB Potatoes – but speaking following the poll results in April, UK environment secretary, George Eustice promised that the clear view of growers would be acted upon.

However, NFU Scotland yesterday said that with the demise of the body now almost certain, the industry had raised some concerns about the loss of some of the key functions that AHDB Potatoes carried out.

Jointly drawn up by the union and the Scottish Society of Crop Research (SSCR) the survey aims to identify which functions are most valued by the industry. The survey is available on-line at: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/AHDB_Potatoes_Functions

However the union stressed that the results of the survey would not be used to resurrect a different version of the AHDB.

“The results will inform discussions with government and industry about what happens after AHDB has wound down,” said chair of NFU Scotland’s Potatoes Working Group, Mike Wilson.

“This is to ensure that valued functions will continue to be carried out. It will also help start the process of identifying who should carry them out and how they should be funded.”

The survey closes at noon on 25 June.

“Now that we have the result of the ballot and growers have voted ‘no’, we need to look forward to the future to protect, maintain and improve our brilliant potato industry without the AHDB having a role in that,” added Wilson.

“There are a few key issues that our industry requires in an ever-challenging, growing environment for both seed and ware potatoes, primarily information on plant and soil health, chemical authorisations and general marketing.”

The survey had been compiled along with SSCR to allow those involved in the potato industry to feed in their suggestions on the key areas for research in the coming years.

“There is also an opportunity to feed in any other suggestions that those interested in the well-being of the Scottish potato sector may have. We encourage you to complete this to let us know what you want going forward into a very promising potato growing future!”

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