Potatoes lost in floods? Still must meet contract

A Herefordshire potato grower who lost nearly £500,000 of crop in this summer’s floods has vowed never to grow potatoes again for one the country’s biggest processors after it refused to make allowances for the damage inflicted to his crop.

Peter Vaughan, who farms at Oakfield, near Leominster, lost 80ha (197 acres) of Estima potatoes. His plight was so bad DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn visited to see the damage himself.

Once it became obvious that his crop was lost he contacted Greenvale, to which he is contracted to supply 2000t, to explain the situation. But despite witnessing the extent of the damage, the company has instructed him that he must honour his contract.

Mr Vaughan estimates that to source the necessary tonnage will cost his business about £150/t on the open market, a total of about £300,000.

“I’ve taken legal advice and I’m bound by the contract I signed. It makes no allowance for force majeures. I would warn others to be very cautious before signing such contracts,” Mr Vaughan told Farmers Weekly.

“I know of about 10 other growers who are in the same situation and we have all been told that our cases will be reviewed individually, but I feel we are just being picked off one by one.”

On top of this, the British Potato Council has recently requested Mr Vaughan pay the producer levy of £40/ha.

Farmers Weekly contacted the BPC to ask if it would be introducing levy relief for producers suffering crop losses.

A spokesman said the body had considered it, but felt doing so would jeopardise the organisation’s standing and would set a dangerous precedent.

“The BPC levy should be seen as an industry investment for the future, not as a tax the levy income is needed for the activities which the BPC has committed to carry out on behalf of the industry,” added the spokesman.

Greenvale declined to comment on the matter, saying agreements with growers were private matters.

Tractor ploughing potatoe crop

Before and after…..Peter Vaughan had no option but to grub up his potatoes after floods destroyed his crop last summer

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