By FWi staff

POTATO profits could plummet if the government introduced a pesticide tax, growers at the industry-sponsored Potato 99 event were told on Wednesday.

Potato gross margins would be reduced by almost 14%, according to a new study carried out by farm consultants ADAS for the National Farmers Union.

A pesticide tax would deal a blow to the industry already suffering from the effect of the strong pound, claimed Richard Watson-Jones, NFU potato committee chairman.

“That is ironic when the potato industry is producing what the market wants and competing in Europe without support,” he said.

The strength of sterling means it is already 15-20% cheaper for processors to import potatoes, claimed Mr Watson-Jones.

“There is a need for government to understand that the UK production base for potatoes and other crops is greatly at threat,” he said.

The NFU claims it has secured a commitment that UK agricultural attaches will monitor whether overseas governments are unfairly supporting foreign growers.

The union is now calling for a European Union regime to set Europe-wide production standards for potatoes.

In the meantime, British growers should join together to meet the challenges of the global market, urged Mr Watson-Jones.

Producers should support and recognise the benefits of the British Potato Council which sponsored the Potato 99 event, he said.

“There are enormous benefits we have from co-operation within the industry. We can no longer afford a them and us attitude.”