george eustice

Now was a ’good time’ to  review the role and function of the AHDB, said George Eustice

The long-term future of the AHDB is under scrutiny after Defra launched a review to “examine the continuing need for AHDB and the statutory levy”.

Defra, along with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, has launched a 10 week-long “request for views” from farmers, growers and processors on the future of the board, which collects about £60m in statutory levies a year from the farming sector.

The review would also ask “what the levy board should deliver”, said Defra. It was being conducted to ensure the sectors overseen by the AHDB were “as competitive as possible” as the UK left the EU, in addition to assessing its purpose, priorities, strengths and areas for improvement, it said. The results of the consultation are due to be published in early 2019.

“At a time when we are designing a new agriculture policy from first principles, now is also a good time to review the role and function of this agricultural and horticultural levy body,” said farming minister George Eustice.

“The AHDB collects around £60m a year in statutory levy from farmers and growers and currently uses that money for a range of purposes to support these sectors. This request for views is an opportunity for levy payers to have their say about the role and function of the various components of the AHDB in the future.”

AHDB CEO Jane King added: “We welcome this opportunity to gain feedback from farmers and growers, and to help the industry compete in a global marketplace as the country prepares to leave the EU.

“We’d encourage views to shape where we can have the biggest impact and drive value as an independent, evidence-based organisation, which carries out marketing at home and abroad, while sharing best practice and innovation with farmers, growers and the wider industry, at this crucial time.”

With Brexit less than a year away and British agriculture facing some of its biggest opportunities and challenges in decades, the role and effectiveness of AHDB was “more important than ever”, said NFU director of policy Andrew Clark. However, levy payers were “right to expect the organisation to deliver value for their investment”, he added.

“At this time, industry collaboration is vital. The NFU is already working closely with AHDB to ensure farmers and growers receive the best available market intelligence, analysis and promotion of our industry to demonstrate the value of delivering safe, traceable and affordable food to the public. The NFU will be responding to Defra’s request for views and we would encourage interested members to respond as well.”