The future of up to five producer organisations in the UK fresh produce industry hung in the balance this week as they awaited the outcome of a controversial year-long government review into their status.

The review - launched by the Rural Payments Agency last August - considered whether 14 groups could be deemed POs under the EU’s Fruit and Vegetable Aid Scheme, which provides financial assistance to POs for efficiency improvements.

As The Grocer went to press, five POs were on the brink of being de-recognised by the RPA because they had failed to submit enough evidence to justify their status. They had until close of play on Thursday, 9 August to do so.

De-recognition means they will not be reimbursed under the scheme for any monies expended during 2011.

The RPA would not name the companies involved but, when the review was launched last year, POs told The Grocer that non-reimbursement was “too dire to contemplate” for those affected.

The Rural Payments Agency said the review was designed to protect the benefits of the scheme and ensure it remained viable in future.

“Most POs accepted the validity of the review and have been willing to work with us to determine how they need to change,” said external relations director Sharon Ellis.

Nine POs have had their suspension from the scheme lifted after the RPA concluded they met PO criteria. Three withdrew following suspension.