29 March 2002

No spud levy for 20%

ALMOST 20% of potato growers will soon be exempt from levy payments to the British Potato Council and will no longer qualify for automatic membership if proposed government legislation goes ahead.

The move, designed to increase efficiency at the organisation, will see the size threshold for producer members raised from 1ha to 3ha (2.5 to 7.5 acres). It costs more to administer these smaller growers than is raised by their levy payments, says BPC chief executive, Nigel Jupe.

A number of other changes are also on the cards. To offset the cost of chasing late levy payments, the rate for producers, set at £40/ha (£16/acre) for the 2002/2003 season, will increase by £5/ha (£2/acre) when payment is after the due date. Buyers will pay an extra 2p/t on top of the standard 17p/t charge.

It is also proposed that the maximum ceiling for levy payments be raised to £50/ha (£20/acre) for growers but remain at 25p/t for purchasers.

Mr Jupe says the proposals are the result of extensive talks with stakeholders and he is not expecting too much resistance. "We have not had any complaints yet." &#42