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Strategic investment in UK potato industry: AHDB proposes funding for key projects using residual levy funds

In a bold move aimed at advancing the United Kingdom’s potato industry, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has announced plans to utilize approximately £1.8 million in residual potato levy funds. The proposal seeks to support a suite of seven pivotal industry projects, ranging from disease management to crisis response, under the stewardship of GB Potatoes.

Following the cessation of levy payer activities within the sector, AHDB’s board, with endorsements from prominent potato membership organizations, is reaching out to ministers to secure approval for a grant that could significantly influence the future of potato farming across Great Britain.

The projects earmarked for funding are critical to addressing both current and emerging challenges in the potato sector:

  • Potato Blight Project: Aiming to combat the evolving threat of potato blight by monitoring genetic changes and fungicide resistance.
  • Aphid Monitoring Project: Providing crucial national data for better decision-making through enhanced aphid surveillance.
  • Management Tools to Tackle Viruses Project: Introducing new tools to join Horticulture Crop Protection on behalf of the seed sector to ensure the continuation of high-grade seed production.
  • Reputational Management Project: Focused on protecting and enhancing the industry’s public image through coordinated crisis management and proactive media engagement.
  • Bridging Information Gap Project: Supplying transparent and accurate data regarding potato cultivation, varieties, and yields.
  • CIPC Residue Monitoring Project: Supporting regulatory compliance by providing residue data to the Chemical Regulation Division, crucial for the continued use of storage facilities with a history of chlorpropham use.
  • Updating Nutrient Management (RB209) Project: Revising fertiliser recommendations to reflect the latest technologies and practices in the industry.

The board’s recommendation comes on the heels of the sale of the AHDB Potatoes’ Sutton Bridge Experimental Unit, which left the organization with significant reserves. Out of these, £400k is earmarked to cover potential liabilities, with the remaining funds proposed to be distributed over a span of three to five years. The initial grant amount will total £1.372 million over the first three years, with subsequent funding for years four and five contingent upon a successful review and the availability of further residual funds.

Support for the initiative has been robust, with letters endorsing the proposal received from several key agricultural bodies, including the National Farmers Union (NFU), NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru, the British Potato Trade Association, the Fresh Potato Supplier Association, and the Potato Processor’s Association.

Graham Wilkinson, Chief Executive of AHDB, highlighted the thoroughness of the board’s decision-making process: “In reaching its recommendation to the minister, the board carefully considered a range of options for potato sector funds. The GB Potatoes proposals have wide written support from all the main industry membership trade organizations and also meet the AHDB Board’s legal obligation to use levy funds to benefit the sector.”

The next step involves submitting the grant proposal along with the AHDB board’s recommendation to Ministers for their consideration, setting the stage for a potentially transformative period in the UK potato industry.

Source: AHDB. Read the original release here
Related: GB Potatoes news story
Image: Credit Maria from Pixabay

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