26 May 1995

GBPO aims to maintain stable times for growers

Buoyant potato prices did much to create a mood of optimisim at the Potato Marketing Boards grower conference and subsequent Potato Technology 95 event at Sutton Bridge, Lincs. Charles Abel reports on the latest technical developments

CONVERSION of the Potato Marketing Board to the Great Britain Potato Organisation may see an end to quota and penalty levy. But the PMBs current plans mean growers would still be subject to an area levy, and a new tonnage levy would be introduced for merchants.

The 1947 Act allows the PMBs successor body to be funded by statutory levy, explains chief executive Alasdair Fairbairn. Contin-uing a grower levy, of less than £35/ha (£14/acre), would ensure all growers contributed to the GBPOs work.

A "small top-up" tonnage levy on merchants would provide the input from other beneficiaries of the new GBPO, he says.

The move would ensure the GBPO kept data on planted areas and traded tonnages, allowing it to meet its statistical remit.

It would also allow the Joint Consultative Committee to set a recommended planting area for individual growers, in a bid to retain stability in the sector, says Mr Fairbairn.

IACS-like form filling, in use for the first time this year, combined with "spy-in-the-sky" satellite monitoring, would mean that just 25 fieldsmen could police the grower levy, says Dick Eddy, head of producer services at the PMB in Oxford.

Penalties, of up to £2000, could apply for non-declaration of statutory returns.

One of the main objections to the PMBs current plans, which must be submitted in detail for ministry approval by next March, is the formation of the GBPOs board. The English and Welsh farming unions want an elected, democratic board. But that is contrary to the 1947 Act, which leaves appointments to the minister, comments Mr Fairbairn. "The minister has assured us, however, that although he must retain the right to appoint, he will take due account of the recommendations of the industry."

&#8226 Promote orderly marketing.

&#8226 Provide market intelligence.

&#8226 Promote and undertake R&D.

&#8226 Promotion and market devmt.

&#8226 Forum for discussion.

Transition from the PMB to the GBPO will include a decision on the future of Sutton Bridge packing station this summer. It may be sold or retained separately, comments Jim Cruickshank, PMB vice-chairman (right), pictured here at the Potato Technology 95 event.