New organisation proposed to represent British seed potato sector

seed potatoes being harvested

A NEW body to represent British seed potato growers has been proposed and aims to ensure the sustainability of the sector following the closure of AHDB Potatoes.

The levy board ceased operations at the end of 2021 and has left a significant gap in the funding and coordination of potato research and innovation, grower representation and market development.

See also: Virus warning for seed growers as aphid numbers soar

After a series of meetings in Scotland, where much of British seed is produced, stakeholders proposed a new body – the Seed Potato Organisation (SPO) – which aims to fill this gap and meet the specific needs of the seed-producing sector across Great Britain.

Seed growers involved in initial discussions felt that an overarching body similar to AHDB Potatoes would under-represent the sector’s specific needs.

The steering group, which includes nine growers and a technical expert, have just published a prospectus for the SPO, outlining the mechanisms for joining and the benefits members can expect.

Cooperative model

The organisation will be an independent cooperative, which seed growers will run for the benefit of members.

Full membership will give each stakeholder voting rights on key priorities and will be open to all registered seed growers and seed merchants across Britain, with the promise of delivering value for money for members.

One of the criticisms of AHDB Potatoes was a disconnect with levy payers, but the SPO hopes this will be addressed by its democratic model of one member, one vote, no matter the size of the business.

Seed potato success

SPO will be governed by an elected board of directors, whose main purpose is to ensure the SPO’s success, directing day-to-day affairs and ensuring it is meeting the interests of members and other stakeholders.

The board will regularly report back to all members with progress in business matters, its performance, issues, and actions.

There will be a joining fee of £2,000 in the form of a loan to the business to establish the cooperative. 

Then members will pay an annual levy based on the area of seed the business grows.

In year one, which will be 2023 if launched successfully, the annual levy will be £40/ha, and the joining fee will be returned if a member decides to leave the organisation.

Industry engagement

To get feedback from seed growers, the SPO has put together a survey which SASA has distributed to all registered seed growers. 

The survey can also be found here.

There will also be a series of grower meetings over the summer, with the final gathering at Potatoes in Practice 2022, allowing growers to find out more in person and offer ideas on how the organisation will move forward.

The deadline for applications to join SPO will be 30 November 2022, and providing there is sufficient interest, SPO will be launched in January 2023.

The SPO steering board are keen to stress that SPO is not another AHDB Potatoes, as membership will be a voluntary subscription rather than a mandated levy.

This means the organisation should deliver better value for money and directly meet the needs of the seed potato sector and its growers.

A high level of stakeholders signing up will be needed to enable SPO to deliver on its promises and objectives.

Seed potato organisation – four key aims

  • Fund research, innovation, and technical services for the seed potato sector – priorities might include controlling virus, powdery scab, and novel approaches to haulm destruction. Also, managing Extensions of Authorisation for Minor Uses (EAMU).
  • Represent the views of seed potato growers – Discuss matters with SASA, influence government funding priorities, manage public issues and potentially integrate with other proposed industry bodies like GB Potatoes.
  • Support existing markets and development of new markets for British seed potatoes
  • Ensure the economic and environmental sustainability of the seed potato sector by providing the relevant technical information for sustainable practices, benchmarking costs, and helping to meet environmental challenges.

For more information, go to the SPO website

closup of potatoes

Seed Potato Organisation engagement meetings

  • 5 July, 18:30, Red House Hotel, Station Road, Coupar Angus, PH13 9AL
  • 6 July, 18:30, Woodside Farm & Coffee Shop, Kinloss, Forres, IV36 3UA
  • 11 August, 10:00 Potatoes in Practice, Seminar tent, Balruddery Farm, Fowlis, Dundee DD2 5LJ
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