10 September 1999

Spray taxes to see spud profit mashed

POTATO profits could plummet if the government introduces a pesticide tax, growers at this weeks Potato 99 event were told.

Gross margins would be reduced by almost 14%, according to a new study carried out for the NFU by farm consultants ADAS.

A pesticide tax would deal a blow to the industry already suffering from the effects of the strong pound and market volatility, 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, he said, adding that the government must understand that the UK production base for potatoes and other crops was under great threat.

The NFU had secured a commitment that UK agricultural attaches would monitor whether overseas governments were unfairly supporting foreign growers, he added.

It would also continue to campaign for an EU 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 the British Potato Council because the industry needs the benefit of research and development, market information, and promotion, he said.

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