Vegetable, flower and potato growers who led the campaign to abolish a statutory levy on horticulture and potato production, have expressed concern and disappointment in recent comments by National Farmers’ Union (NFU) representatives and the Growers Better Levy Group (GLBG), suggesting the industry supports a compulsory levy.

Lincolnshire potato and vegetable grower John Bratley said: “In two decisive votes, two-thirds of growers across the horticulture and potato sectors unambiguously rejected the idea of a statutory levy.

However, over the last three weeks we have seen comments which appear to be trying to rewrite this result and replace one statutory levy with another.”

Speaking at the Festival of Fresh conference on July 13, chair of the NFU Horticulture and Potatoes board Ali Capper suggested that the majority of growers supported a new statutory levy.

Capper said: “I think the vast majority of growers see the necessity for some form of small statutory or mandatory levy.”

Rejecting the levy

Her comments were questioned by Bratley who said: “The vast majority of growers rejected the idea of a statutory levy.

After all, the ballot was on the continuation of a compulsory levy, not the structure of the AHDB. Almost 61% of horticulture growers and more than 66% of potato growers rejected a compulsory levy, so it is unclear how Capper can say the majority support it.”

Bratley added: “If Capper is so supportive of a compulsory levy, it brings into question her ability to represent growers within the NFU.

“The NFU needs to remember that the vast majority of growers who voted against a statutory levy are also a majority of its members.”