The National Sheep Association (NSA) has said it supports the proposal for an increase to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board’s (AHDB’s) levies.

The AHDB said today (Wednesday, June 14) that discussions to do just this have been started by its four sector councils.

The NSA acknowledged that costs have risen, “including those of the AHDB”, and that the levy needs to reflect that.

“No one welcomes costs increasing, but if we want a body to promote red meat products, to open new export markets, and to work to protect the reputation and ability of our industry then we must accept that it needs funding,” NSA chief executive, Phil Stocker commented.

However, he said that this increase mustn’t allow for “complacency”.

“AHDB needs to demonstrate a tight ship using levy money wisely and to maximum effect,” he said.

“Opening up global markets for our lamb, and promoting it where we already have access, including our domestic markets has to be a key priority. But then underpinning this with evidence and information to protect and enhance our reputation and our performance follows on seamlessly.”

He added: ““There must be clear value and communication of the value to levy payers on the areas of development and research that any potential increase would be used for.”

The AHDB has said that conversations will be held with key industry stakeholders and levy payers during the coming months.

Once levy payers and stakeholders have had the opportunity to share their views, sector councils will decide on a recommendation to share with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which is responsible for making a final decision on changing levy rates.

If approved, the board said that new rates could be implemented from April 2024.

At present, the levy rate for the beef and lamb sector has not changed for more than 10 years. It is currently £0.60/head for a sheep producer and £0.20/head for slaughterers/exporters of live sheep.