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AHDB Potato Chair reports back on an open board session

29 March 2019

Sophie Churchill, Chair of the AHDB Potatoes Board and member of the AHDB Board, invited all potatoes levy payers to the March board meeting. In this blog, she reflects on the business of the day.

The AHDB Potatoes Board is there to help support and equip levy payers to negotiate the continuing changes faced by the industry. There are the continuing effects on the crop of drought and high temperatures last year, and new challenges with CIPCmaleic hydrazide and other products’ availability. The Board is also very aware of the ongoing challenges in margins in an ever-consolidating industry. 

So we felt it was a good time to open our most recent Board meeting to levy payers so that you could see who makes the decisions and how we do our business. 

It was a special meeting for us as we welcomed three new board members, Chris Wilson, Alison Levett and Jim Cargill. These members officially join the board on 1 April. 

We agreed our budget for the coming year, with a continuing focus on the challenges in storage. We will also continue to invest in our knowledge exchange and SPot Farms with a fully-fledged team ready to meet levy payers face to face. Our Market Intelligence has just been reviewed, including weekly prices, and we will continue to improve the data which levy payers receive.

After the formal items, it was good to have a wide-ranging discussion which included variety developments, land availability, (e.g. PCN load and pressure from other crops), costs of production and profit margins, and the market for waste products from the potato starch industry. Jane King, CEO of AHDB, who regularly attends the board,  briefed us on the wider skills agenda, so important for future competitiveness, and Defra’s consultation on AHDB, which has been delayed due to Brexit pressures. 

We are very grateful to those who gave their time and came to Peterborough. We welcome every opportunity to have dialogue with levy payers: you are our customers and funders and we look forward to continuing to work closely with you over the coming year.

Wishing growers an excellent planting season and rain at the right time, to get levels up where needed.

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