A ballot to decide the future of the AHDB Potato levy has concluded and the report has been passed to Ministers for a decision on what happens next, after a majority vote against the continuation of the levy. Charlotte Cunningham reports.

The call for a ballot on the continuation of a statutory levy in the potato sector came late last year and a yes/no vote started in mid-Feb on the basis of one levy payer, one vote. An independent company, UK Engage, administered the vote process.

The overall voter turnout was 64% with 1196 eligible votes cast. The No vote against the continuation of a levy was 66.4% versus the Yes vote of 33.6%.

Voting analysis by UK Engage according to value of levy paid, showed a similar picture of 63.2% No votes vs Yes votes of 36.8%.

Splitting the result into the two separate potato levies – the potato buyer levy and the potato grower levy – overall buyers voted 82.1% No and 17.9% Yes. The growers voted 64.3% No and 35.7% Yes.

Deeply disappointed 

AHDB Chair Nicholas Saphir said: “I’m deeply disappointed. The voting information reported by UK Engage shows that a clear majority of the potato industry feels they are not getting enough value from the current levy set-up.

“It’s now down to Ministers to weigh up all the various factors about GB potato industry and make a decision on the future role of a statutory potato levy.”

The ballot outturn report by UK Engage, the independent company which ran the ballot, has been published on the AHDB website.

The ballot process, laid out in Statute, means that a ballot is held in order to inform Ministers how the industry feels on the value of a statutory levy. The outturn of the ballot must be passed to Defra Ministers and the Devolved Administrations to then make a decision on the future, however they are not bound by the ballot.

Defra Minister Victoria Prentis MP said: “We will now take these results and scrutinise them closely before making a decision on the future of the Potato levy. A joint decision with Scottish and Welsh Ministers will be made after the Scottish and Welsh government elections.

“In the meantime AHDB will continue to collect levy returns from the industry for the 2021/22 year.”