22 March 1996

UKpotato growers to vote

By Shelley Wright

POTATO growers will be asked to vote next week on whether or not they want a successor body to the Potato Marketing Board.

Ballot papers will be sent out on Mon (Mar 25) and the poll will close on Apr 6 with a result announced on Apr 22. Growers will be asked two questions:

&#8226 Do you approve the setting up of the Great Britain Potato Organisation?

&#8226 Do you approve the transfer of the PMB residual funds to a body where they will be under producer representatives control so that these funds may be used for the benefit of the GBPO?

Alasdair Fairbairn, PMB chief executive, urged growers to vote yes to the first question. "There is a definite need for a national potato organisation when the PMB is wound up. If growers vote no then we will be the only major potato-growing country not to have such a body."

On the second question, whether to transfer the £5.2m PMB residual funds, it was up to individuals to decide, he said. The NFU has urged growers to vote yes to both questions. If growers decided to transfer the money then it would be kept under producer control, either within the GBPO or in a separate trust fund.

If transferred to the GBPO, the capital would remain untouched but the interest, about £375,000 a year at current rates, would be used by the organisation. In that case the grower levy would be £35/ha (£14/acre) with 20p/t collected from merchants.

But Mr Fairbairn said that if growers opted to reclaim their PMB reserve then the GBPO levy would increase to as much as £40/ha (£16/acre) to secure the £6.1m annual funding for the successor body.

If growers vote yes to set up the GBPO, it will start operating on July 1, 1997. Mr Fairbairn said current discussions suggested that there would be 16 appointed members, nine of them growers.

He said the successor body would be responsible for:

&#8226 Commissioning and funding research and development.

&#8226 Marketing and promotions, including export promotions.

&#8226 Providing independent information and statistics. &#42