Spud levy collection systems unchanged but 4% rise soon
By Isabel Davies
THERE will be no radical changes to the way potato levies are collected from growers this year, but there will be an increase in the rate from July.
The need to maintain total levy income has prompted the British Potato Council (BPC) to recommend to the government that the grower levy for the 1999 year should be increased from £35/ha to £36.50/ha.
MAFF is now consulting on the proposed 4% rise and also on a recommendation to change the existing collecting arrangements for the purchaser levy.
The BPC made the proposals following a series of informal meetings where key industry players were asked, among other things, whether they wanted to continue funding at existing levels.
The BPC spends more than £6.5m a year, mainly on promotional activities and research and development work. Since the council was established in 1997 the levy has remained unchanged at £35/ha.
The proposed levy increase has not surprised the NFU. It has been warning for some time that, because plantings have fallen in the past three years, the levy would have to rise if it remained set on a per hectare basis.
Richard Watson-Jones, NFU potato committee chairman, said the increase was necessary to allow the BPC to retain its current levels of activity.
In addition to the proposal to increase the grower levy, MAFF is also consulting on a recommendation to change the purchaser levy from a first point of sale charge to one paid by purchasers each time potatoes are moved on. Exemptions would apply if potatoes were going straight for domestic consumption or if total purchases were less than 100 tonnes a year.
And although the change in the system would allow the purchaser levy to be reduced from 21p a tonne to 15p/t, the BPC calculates that the total revenue would be the same or slightly higher than current levels.
As FW went to Press (Wed), Mr Watson-Jones said it was too early to say how the industry would react to the increase in grower levy. Personally, he believed it was important to keep up the critical mass of contributions.
And the proposed change to the purchaser levy would appear to result in a more "equitable system", he added.