22 October 1999
BPC launches fight for its future

By Farmers Weekly staff

BRITISH potato growers need an umbrella organisation to co-ordinate industry development, but should not expect to pay any less for it.

That is the response of the British Potato Council to a government review which could lead to a poll on the organisations future next May.

Import pressures, stringent quality requirements and intensifying supermarket competition are mean the BPC must be maintained, believe council officials.

But they want no change in levy rates, which currently generate £6.5 million, based on £36.50/ha (£14.77/acre) from growers and a 15p/t from first purchasers.

Cost savings of just £200,000 in three years have been identified.

Despite the downturn in farm incomes growers should look to the long-term benefits, stressed the BPC.

“Its like buying a potato harvester – growers look at their commitment to the crop and invest for the long term. The BPC levy is just the same.”

Had a vote been taken last January, when prices were high, an all clear would have been virtually guaranteed, said David Walker, BPC chairman, on Wednesday.

“We are still confident, but far from blasé, given the state of the industry.”

The government is gathering industry views until December, ahead of a possible poll next March and a decision on the future remit of the BPC by May.