Grain woe, but levy level

19 April 2002

Grain woe, but levy level

By Andrew Swallow

HGCA-LEVY rates are likely to be unchanged from next harvest despite the recent drop in cereal values and the impending five-yearly review of the authoritys operation.

"We have recommended the levy rate stays at 40p/t," says chief executive Paul Biscoe.

Switching to a percentage levy rate, say 0.4% of a designated reference price, rather than the current fixed rate/t system, would be impractical, he maintains, a point echoed by research director Graham Jellis.

"How could you manage a research budget with many three year projects when your income is going up and down like a yo-yo," he says.

As it is, income has plummeted this year with the much smaller crop from the 2001 harvest, he adds.

HGCA average annual income is £11m/year, says Dr Biscoe. Next years budget allocates 89.5% of that to research and collection of data, the interpretation of that and its communication to levy payers. Buildings, support services and other facilities eat up the remainder.

Growers are getting value for their money, he maintains. In an independent survey commissioned by the authority last autumn 91% of farmers rated the HGCAs role as vital or very important to the arable industry, he points out.

The survey, conducted by The Marketing Partnership, contacted 2000 farmers of which 857 responded. Of them, 96% read the authoritys Grow For It bulletin and 66% receive MiSaturday and Topic sheets.

Those figures represent a marked improvement in the authoritys ability to communicate with its levy-payers, notes marketing director Alistair Dickie.

"We have 29,000 growers on our database now representing 2.6m ha. That leaves only 15-20% that we arent in direct communication with in some way."

The recently formed Agronomists Alliance also represents a huge step forward in communications, says Dr Biscoe.

Targeted at BASIS qualified farmers and advisors information on ongoing, recently completed and future projects is e-mailed out about once every three weeks plus there is the opportunity to attend open days and training events.

"We have about 230-240 members at the moment. Anybody can join – there is a registration form on the HGCA web-site:"

With the five-yearly review of the authoritys statute granting it the right to collect levies expected next year demonstrating effective spending on research andits communication to the industry is crucial, he acknowledges.

"The first question in such a review is always should the organisation exist. The last one was in 1998 when we received a resounding yes, but there were some formal issues identified and communication was one of them."

&#8226 Growers who are not receiving HGCA information who wish to do so should telephone 020-7520 3926 or e-mail &#42


&#8226 Five-year review due 2003.

&#8226 New cereals R&D strategy this autumn.

&#8226 Communications advances claimed.

&#8226 Levy-rates unchanged.

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