The English Apple Man recognizes the importance of investment in research and technology which has benefitted the horticultural industry in terms of the safe and efficient production of British produce. As a former fruit grower and technical director of a major UK supplier, I have been close to the ongoing research into fruit growing.
During that time, the medium for research has been a statutory body set up by Government to administer the funding by levy of research projects.
In recent years the Horticultural Development Council (HDC) morphed into the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) in 2008.
This statutory body which includes different grower representation groups, like The Tree Fruit Panel where growers are elected to advise on which areas of research are most important for investment. It is important to recognise the Government does not have a mandatory commitment to match the research funds levied from growers. Although public funds can and are used to support the funding of various research projects. For instance INNOVATE UK is one such financial source.
The current position sees AHDB as a statutory body 'up for election' - with some producer sectors ready to vote NO as they see no meaningful benefit for paying a levy which delivers them little in return. Other producer organisations however see an important role for the continuation of AHDB, albeit in a 'restructured way.
The structure and operation of AHDB is very complex and many within the growing industry would like to see a change in the current model.
Important Message from Horticulture & Potatoes Future Statutory Levy Working Group: The group would like to see our workable alternative to the current position regarding the statutory levy for UK Horticulture and Potatoes reach as many growers as possible so as to try to engage them in the debate.
Horticulture & Potatoes Future Statutory Levy Working Group
PRESS RELEASE 8th January 2021
The Horticulture & Potatoes Future Statutory Levy Working Group has been established voluntarily by businesses from within the UK Horticulture and Potato sectors to work together for the benefit of all levy paying businesses. We believe in the fairness and value of a statutory levy and that our industry should work collaboratively to achieve market-led innovation, near market applied R&D, increased productivity and a world class sustainable industry.
The Group presents considered alternatives and draws inspiration from the successful levy models established in Australia and New Zealand.
The Group is developing a workable alternative to the current model, aiming to deliver better value for money and organisational and financial transparency for levy paying businesses and would welcome engagement with and contributions to this process from other levy payers. We have been in conversation with senior members of AHDB, including Chairman Nicholas Saphir, and commend the changes he is trying to make, especially the introduction of an automatic 5 yearly ballot.
It is our belief that the proposed changes need to go further and faster.
Levy payers must 'take back control' of their investment funds and provide the strategic leadership within a lean and agile decision-making framework. The levy organisation should work to support this.
This will be achieved through:
- Root and branch reform of the existing levy organisation for Horticulture and Potatoes
- All levies raised, budgets and costs should be transparent to levy payers, regularly scrutinised and subject to Panel and Sector Board approval
- Overhaul of the governance of the existing levy organisation which should include a review of the Radcliffe Report and the previous constitutions of HDC and a commitment to a Sector Board and Panels for Horticulture
- More focus on levy funded near market R&D, supported by leveraged funding for strategic and fundamental science
- R&D reports online should be more easily accessible to all levy payers
- Market development should be nuanced after Panel consultation and only implemented for those sectors where it is required
- Co-funding mechanisms must be introduced and encouraged to secure additional funding from the whole supply chain, government and research bodies. This will require entrepreneurism to leverage these funding sources to complement and magnify levy payers' funds
Aspects which will require a change in the Statutory Instrument:
- Levy is grower 'investment' not public money
- The levy collection and deduction system should reflect modern practices
- Levy paying members should nominate or elect their "Board" and "Panel" representatives ensuring accountability, budget control and sound strategy. They should not be appointed
- Levy payments should receive R&D tax relief / credits in line with private investment
The outcome of the changes being proposed will be a grower-led levy body serving levy payers through proper governance and transparency. This will deliver a world leading, investor funded service which returns significant and measurable benefits to levy paying investors in a highly challenging and fast evolving primary food and plant production landscape.
Notes to Editors:
The Horticulture & Potatoes Future Statutory Levy Working Group members include;
- Philip Pearson, APS Produce Ltd (Protected Edibles)
- Marion Regan, Hugh Lowe Farms (Soft fruit)
- Martin Emmett, Walberton Nursery LLP, Binsted Nursery LLP, Fleurie Nursery Limited (Ornamentals)
- Sophie Bambridge, B & C Farming Ltd (Potatoes)
- James Harrison, EG Harrison & Co. (Potatoes)
- Tom Hulme, AC Hulme & Sons (Tree Fruit)
- Martin Evans, Fresh Growers Ltd (Field Vegetables)
- John Shropshire, Cambs Farms Growers Ltd (Field Vegetables)
- Derek Wilkinson, Sandfields Farm Ltd (Field Vegetables)
- Philip Morley, British Tomato Growers' Association / APS Produce Ltd (Protected Edibles)
For further information, please contact a member of the group above directly.
For press and all other enquiries please contact; Philip Morley 07812 200203 / email@example.com
The English Apple Man asks readers who are either AHDB levy payers or who know farmers and growers to PLEASE alert them to the importance of entering the debate on the future structure of the AHDB.
Until next week
The English Apple Man