28 April 1995

JCC reveals proposals for new potato set-up

By Philip Clarke

INDUSTRY proposals for a new Great Britain Potato Organ- isation, to replace the statutory Potato Marketing Board, have been presented to ministers.

The new body would have four main functions:

lProvide market intelligence and statistics to promote the orderly marketing of potatoes.

lResearch and development.

lPromote potatoes and develop markets at home and abroad.

lProvide a forum for discussion.

It is planned to raise funds by a statutory producer levy, collected on an area basis. Current thinking on the Joint Consultative Comm-ittee, which has drawn up the proposals, is that the levy should be "no more than £35/ha" to generate an income of £6m to £7m.

This compares with a total PMB income last year of £13m, of which about £6m went on producer services and administration, £2m on marketing and £1.4m on research and development.

There will also be an element of funding by the trade, probably on a £/t basis, although this has yet to be finalised.

"The new Potato Organisation will be an industry-wide body, but with a majority of farmer representatives, as they will be providing most of the funding," explained Robin Pooley, managing director of Anglian Produce, who also sits on the JCC.

Although the Potato Mark-eting Scheme does not officially end until the summer of 1997, approval for the new organisation is needed by next March, said a PMB spokeswoman. The Board is dismissing another producer poll (the scheme only allows for one every three years, anyway) but says farmers will be consulted on the finer details.

As part of the transition to a free market, the JCC is looking to do away with quotas altogether for the 1996/97 crop year. "If that is not legal, we could at least reduce the excess planting levy to zero," said the spokeswoman.

Mr Pooley favours some form of indicative quota to at least prevent a "free for all". He also believes the new Potato Organ- isation will have a key role in promoting and supporting any future EU potato regime. Such a regime is more important than ever, he says, as more Member States are using state aids to help their growers.

lToken liftings of new potatoes have been made in the far south-west this week. The samples concerned were fetching 55p to 63p/lb ex-farm, equivalent to about £1200/t. This is about 15p/lb more than opening values last year, but at 7t to 8t/ha (2.8t to 3.2t/acre) yields do not yet justify more widespread lifting. &#42