27 October 1995

Strong spud sector is aim of R&D plans

NEW potato research and development plans announced by the Potato Marketing Board on Monday aim to give the industry strength and competitiveness through deregulation and beyond.

After wide consultation with all sectors, the PMB has listed 13 aims to be funded by grower money over the next two years.

These will help plug deficits in the home-produced crop by countering imports of processed products and early potatoes. Seed demand will also be addressed.

Spending is estimated at £1.8m a year, funded through a grower levy. Processors and packers as well as agronomists and growers have been consulted to ensure the most effective use of money.

It is hoped more investment can be attracted from non-growers after deregulation. "In future these other sectors may share R&D funding with growers. Research has to provide the support which enables the GB potato industry as a whole to remain competitive in a free market," said the PMBs head of R&D, Barbara Johnson.

"Over half the budget will still be spent on crop agronomy. But we have put more effort into crop utilisation to meet market needs," she added.

Vice-chairman Jim Cruickshank pointed out that growers stood to gain. "Research is not designed to benefit any one company but to reflect total needs. Growers will benefit from increased sales."

Research manager Mike Storey said results would be channeled to growers through open days, in-house magazines and the Press. But emphasis will also be put on workshops and conferences. "This is an effective way of reaching growers and provides valuable feedback on our work."

Dr Johnson stressed that the plan would provide a "seamless" transition between the current PMB strategy and the control of the future Great Britain Potato Organisation. "R&D is a long-term business and we have set out a rational basis for the establishment of priorities," she said. &#42