Spud demo row on the boil
A POTATO harvesting and handling demonstration, organised to coincide head on with the official British Potato 99 event, has ruffled the feathers of more than a few exhibitors, writes Mike Williams.
British Potato 99 – which is due to be held on a farm near Newark, Notts on Sept 8/9 – includes demonstrations of cultivations and destoning, but no harvesting or handling.
But an "alternative" event held on the same days and on the same farm will see Grimme, Tong Engineering and several other companies demonstrating harvesting and handling equipment in a crop grown specifically for the event.
The official event is organised by the BPC in conjunction with Crops magazine, but the machinery policy was arranged by the Agricultural Engineers Association "club" of root crop equipment companies.
Club members, it is reported, decided 18 months ago not to demonstrate harvesters, and companies involved in the alternative event are breaking that agreement says Andy Bone, joint managing director of Standen Engineering and chairman of the root crop machinery club.
"The action of the 12 or so breakaway companies is outrageous," he insists. "Grimme was represented at the original planning meeting when we all sat round a table and agreed our policy for British Potato 99.
"The fact that they have broken the agreement in this way may be a smart move on their part, but it is totally unprofessional and the rest of the exhibitors will lose out."
Mr Bone believes other harvester and handling equipment manufacturers in the official BPC event will appear as "poor relations" because they do not have a crop to harvest. Worse, he says, is that exhibitors with stands in the marquees will lose out because visitors will spend more time watching the harvesters working in the alternative event.
Oliver Statham, BPC machinery specialist and organiser of British Potato 99, says there was nothing his organisation could do to stop the rival event.
"When we first heard about this it was going to be one Grimme harvester working a few fields away from the official event, but since then it has grown into what has become a rival event. They are just freeloading and benefiting from what we spend on publicity and the visitors we attract," says Mr Statham.
"It does appear that they are breaking the regulations, and that could leave them open to sanctions which could include banning them from future events organised by BPC."
Cliff Preston speaking for the companies backing the alternative event denied that they were in opposition to the BPC or the British Potato event.
"Most of the companies involved, including Grimme, are standholders at the BPC event as well as the demonstration," says Mr Preston.
"We want both events to succeed. Some of the companies have new machines to demonstrate, and as a majority of companies had voted against including a harvesting and handling demonstration, we decided to grow a crop and arrange our own demonstration.
"What we are doing will not detract in any way from the British Potato event. It will help to attract more people and the two events together will be a more interesting day out for the visitors," he insists. *