Announcing a consultation on Potato Council’s new business plan at the Seed Industry event held in Perthshire last month,Potato Council chair Fiona Fell enthused about the AHDB Division’s new focus.
“The potato arena is a challenging place to be in at the moment,” acknowledged Mrs Fell. “Changing consumer purchasing patterns coupled with an on-going oversupply at home and in Europe has resulted in tremendous volatility and severe downward price pressure.”
The Potato Council team is listening to levy payers, analysing market dynamics and looking for ways to support potato producers in this tough and evolving market place.
“An all year round, competitive supply of top quality British potatoes needs to be underpinned by innovative and cost effective storage. This new plan will take Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research Centre forward, and funds will be committed to unlock external funding opportunities to refurbish and develop the storage research and knowledge transfer capability.
Growing the value of the levy by exploring and winning match-funding opportunities created under the Agri-Tech Strategy and RDPE will be fundamental. Potato Council has already submitted a comprehensive application to the EU for funding to promote fresh potatoes, hoping to double its budget for carefully targeted work. The new partnership with BordBia in Ireland if successful will yield vital funding from the EU worth £1.5M over three years.
“AHDB and Potato Council needs to concentrate sufficient resources on key activities, in order to create true impact,” highlighted Mrs Fell.
To deliver the ambitious plan, Potato Council proposes a sub-inflation increase in levy of 1.96 per cent for 2015/16 which will require ministerial approval after a period of consultation. This represents £0.84/hectare for growers and £0.0036/tonne for purchasers.
“We have looked critically at costs, and have managed to keep the increase below inflation whilst providing the necessary funds to continue to provide the unique activities and quality services that our levy payers have fed back that they value,” stressed Mrs Fell.
We will be determining GB’s capacity and willingness to fight back against European competition. With a 1.4Mt raw equivalent trade imbalance in 2013 and 1.4Mt of domestic production destined for secondary uses, the Potato Council team will be looking creatively to see where the opportunities lie. The plan will also deliver new formats and relevant tools for agronomists and advisors to ensure that new information and best practice gets to growers rapidly.
Potato Council’s flagship event BP2015, which uniquely draws the whole British supply chain together, will return to Harrogate at a new venue with a bigger footprint, 12 and 13 November 2015.
“BP2015 will have a better environment to do business, will provide the capacity to allow further exhibitor numbers and provide an enhanced platform to seek out and discuss the innovations and knowledge that will underpin the potato industry going forwards,” noted Mrs Fell.
Keeping it simple and making it efficient translates into value for money, according to Herefordshire grower and Potato Council Board member Bill Quan.
“Difficult times demand strong leadership with a forward looking creative plan,” said Mr Quan. “As a recent newcomer to the board, I’ve been impressed with the team’s focus on value for money, strong financial discipline and cost-control. It means Potato Council will continue to deliver activity against agreed priorities.”
The draft plan will be made available for levy payers to review and feedback their views on whether the plan addresses industry priorities. The consultation starts on 28th November, 2014 and runs for a seven week period (www.potato.org.uk/corporate).
“Delivering the right tools and knowledge so that our levy-payers can operate the most efficient and sustainable businesses they can, is paramount, and is at the heart of the Potato Council’s renewed approach,” concluded Mrs Fell.