16 October 1998
Spray taxes could hit potato growers hard
By Jonathan Riley
BRITAINS potato industry could be devastated by cheaper imports if the government adds to production costs by imposing pesticide taxes on growers in its autumn budget statement.
The first indications from an NFU study show that input taxes could cut arable farmers gross margins by 20%, with the potato industry likely to be hardest hit.
NFU policy director Ian Gardiner said provisional results from the study suggested pesticide taxes would have to be disproportionately high in order to alter production practices.
The union believed that the government was considering a sliding scale of taxes, with chemicals presenting the greatest risk to the environment taxed at high rates to discourage their use.
“In the study, tax levels of 175% of market price have been considered for the most potent pesticides, while the least potent chemicals would attract virtually no tax,” said Mr Gardiner.
That meant the potato industry could be the worse hit because of its need to use more toxic chemicals. And that would allow competitor countries to take control of the British market.
Chairman of the British Potato Processors Association, Richard Harris, said it would not only be growers who suffered.
The 16,000 jobs in the processing industry would also be in jeopardy if government added to growers costs which, in turn, drove prices above those of foreign competitors.
“It is a hugely competitive industry which handles 2m tonnes of the crop and is worth £2bn-£3bn a year,” said Mr Harris.
“Potato growing has no support mechanisms and no subsidies and has fought for its market, a market which has expanded and is forecast to continue expanding.”