19 March 2021
Another year’s levy must be blocked, say campaigners
CAMPAIGNERS against the compulsory levy on horticulture to fund the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) have said growers should not still be charged a levy for the 2021/22 financial year.
There has been speculation within the industry that the amount of Parliamentary time required to amend the statutory instrument could mean the compulsory levy may not be repealed before the end of the current financial year.
One of the campaigners, vegetable grower Peter Thorold, said: “The administration associated with closing the sector is essentially a desktop operation and the reserves the organisation holds should be used to cover such eventualities. The vote clearly showed that most growers no longer wish to pay the levy, and the likelihood is that some, if not most, may simply refuse to pay.
“Where AHDB would stand in such a situation could be open to debate. We urge those within AHDB, and elsewhere in the industry, who seem to be in denial about the outcome of the levy vote, to accept the loss of the compulsory levy and work towards the future.”
The campaigners say AHDB did not count 138 (14.6%) of the votes cast as they came from businesses whose levy payments had not been received by February 10 when the vote ended.
Vegetable and potato grower John Bratley, another of the campaigners, said: “We have been trying to get details of the uncounted votes from AHDB for some time, and they have now admitted that almost 15% of the votes received were not counted. We believe that these votes would have further strengthened the ‘no’ result, as smaller growers are more likely to vote ‘no.’
John Bates of AHDB said: “AHDB’s role was to run a horticulture ballot and pass the result to Ministers. It is now down to Ministers to weigh up all the various factors about GB horticulture and make a decision on the future role of a horticulture levy. Under the current legislation AHDB is obliged to collect a levy until such time as legislation is changed by Parliament.”