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The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board is winding down the activity it undertakes on behalf of the horticulture and potato sectors. AHDB winds down potato work following levy vote

Potato crop

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board is winding down the activity it undertakes on behalf of the horticulture and potato sectors.

It follows votes to abolish the compulsory levies which fund AHDB activities across both sectors. The government has pledged to honour the outcome of the vote – which means growers will eventually no longer have to pay the levy.

The AHDB said it wanted to reassure farmers that their views had been heard following the two ballots – although the levy board was still awaiting a decision on its future by government ministers in England, Scotland and Wales.

AHDB acting chief executive Ken Boyns said the organisation was now stopping programmes of work that could be restarted in the future by grower associations, individual growers or the supply chain.

This includes stopping work on export market access, trade missions and promotions overseas; ending its consumer marketing campaigns; and calling a halt to market pricing and insight information.

Mr Boyns said the AHDB would continue to deliver limited emergency work on pests and diseases – including the Extension of Authorisation for Minor Use (EAMUs) and some contracted research work.

This work would be difficult to restart and would be detrimental to the industry to stop while the AHDB awaited a managed transition or a different funding mechanism to ensure EAMU work was able to continue.

Mr Boyns urged levy payers to be patient in this period of transition. He said: “We are taking a responsible approach in winding-down our work programmes for the horticulture and potato sectors.

“In addition we have to recognise operational liabilities associated with contracts, people and assets. This means that some level of levy will be needed in 2021 to supplement sector reserves to cover these costs as we manage the change.”

The AHDB was legally obliged to collect a levy until parliament amended the legislation, said Mr Boyns. Some 140 staff are expected to be made redundant and it would take time to implement those changes.