17 November 1995

Fairer levy system

EFFORTS to improve the collection of levy funds from horticultural producers are being made in a bid to develop a fairer system.

But a mechanism to compare with the fully-integrated Dutch approach to grower-funded research, advice and marketing remains a distant ideal.

The difficulty for the UKs Horticultural Development Council is the lack of a single point of sale. All Dutch growers are required by law to market through a central auction system. That makes it easy to collect a 5% levy on turnover, explains HDC chief executive, Eric Kennedy.

In the UK growers pay a 0.5% levy on their declared sales turnover, which funds research and development work. The result is a fluctuating income, depending upon a sectors success, delayed payments and hassle for growers. "It is the best of a bad job," admits Mr Kennedy.

Now, to counter concerns that some producers are evading the levy, the HDC is seeking MAFF co-operation to identify all horticultural producers. Once identified non-payers can be legally required to pay. &#42