Potato goalis 2% extra consumption
IMPROVING potato consumption by 2% a year is the goal of the new British Potato Council, which has taken over from the Potato Marketing Board.
Consumption last year was 101kg a head, well down on the 112kg a head of three years ago. But low prices are expected to help the rate rise to 105kg this year.
But BPC chairman David Walker stressed that the council had little scope to influence prices. "We have no regulatory powers, we cant influence the weather and we do not control area any more."
Instead the councils remit was to increase efficiency and productivity in the industry and improve its service to consumers. "Growers have got to realise they are suppliers in this chain. Meeting the needs of customers will be the main focus of the BPC," said Mr Walker.
Improving communications to help growers meet the increasingly diverse needs of the market would be a core goal, he added.
But despite representing most aspects of the industry – with nine farmer members, six trade and one independent – the BPC has no retailer voice. And achieving greater retailer involvement is a council priority.
Funding for the marketing, research and monitoring work the BPC will conduct will be raised through a statutory levy, backed by penalties for non-payers.
Ministers are expected to approve rates of £35/ha (£14/acre) for growers and 20p/t for first-time buyers soon. The rates are below the maximum rates of £40/ha (£16/acre) and 25p/t allowed under legislation, but still provide for a workable £6.6m budget in the first year, said Mr Walker.
That is £2.2m below last years PMB figure, reflecting a cut in staffing and rationalisation of activities. Cashflow during the first year, when growers and buyers will be asked to re-register, will be aided by reserves drawn from more than £4m transferred from the old PMB.
The council has drawn support from the NFU. "Provided it can deliver greater efficiency, transparency and an increase in consumption it will be a benefit," said NFU potato committee chairman, Richard Watson-Jones. *