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AHDB Potatoes enhances engagement with levy payers

2 August 2011

Potato industry delegates heard about how to address some of the current industry challenges at the North of England Potato Day on July 20 at Askham Bryan College Farm in Yorkshire.

Opening the seminar, AHDB Potatoes chairman Allan Stevenson emphasised that AHDB Potatoes is enhancing its programme of engagement with everyone involved in the industry.

 “We are increasing our dialogue with levy payers,” Allan told an audience of 300 delegates. “We are here to listen to you, your concerns and challenges, so that we can best help you to address them.”

This sentiment was echoed by AHDB Potatoes Director Rob Clayton.  He explained to the audience that AHDB Potatoes is engaging with levy payers to really understand the issues that concern them.

He mentioned a few of the areas where AHDB Potatoes has taken the lead, such as CIPC, which was under threat. Thanks to R&D carried out on the chemical and the formation of a stewardship group, this valuable sprout suppressant is still available.

AHDB Potatoes has also undertaken vital R&D on various pests and diseases, business improvement and storage efficiency which have been converted into user-friendly guides, Rob informed delegates.  Furthermore, levy payers have benefited from cost savings delivered by research into fertiliser, seed costs and blight-effective sprays.

He also provided an update on the new build at Sutton Bridge that will make the storage centre one of the most sophisticated in the world. “Our levy payers will benefit from first class research into storage that will help them achieve cost-efficiency – they will be able to store potatoes to a higher quality and this will convert into better returns,” he said.

He also stressed the importance of cross sector collaboration between AHDB Potatoes and other bodies within the AHDB, with studies such as slug control being of equal importance to other sectors within the agricultural industry.

McCain Foods is one of the most important buyers of potatoes in the UK. Corporate Affairs Director Bill Bartlett enthralled his audience, speaking about potatoes from the point of view of the processor, giving a brief history of the company. In addition, he looked at how the processing industry has responded to challenges such as salt reduction – and has led the way in addressing health concerns by putting ‘traffic lights’ on the front of packs of processed potatoes, resulting in an 11% increase in sales.

 The Water Framework Directive is of concern for many growers who have experienced a tough start to the season, and Paul Chambers from the NFU examined the national picture, touching on key agricultural issues such as nutrients, pesticides and sediment. He concluded that potatoes are a high risk crop in water pollution terms and farmers should support key campaigns such as metaldehyde stewardship and follow best practice advice produced by the Voluntary Initiative in addition to using planning measures like Tried and Tested.

Other legislation on the agenda was the PCN Directive that came into effect on July 1. Plant Health and Seed Inspector Phillip Warry spoke of the changes in the law, advising growers on how to reduce the risk of PCN infestation on clean land.

Other important topics included updates on Dickeya and CIPC by Dr John Elphinstone and Adrian Briddon respectively.

After lunch, delegates were able to choose between seminars on critical topics such as crop nutrition, soil moisture, irrigation and climate change in addition to the opportunity to view field trials and demonstrations.

“The response from delegates has been extremely positive and we look forward to repeating the event in 2011,” said AHDB Potatoes technical executive Phil Bradshaw. 

This year’s North of England Potato Day was organised by the AHDB Potatoes together with the Scottish Agricultural College. Sponsors included McCain Foods and Ibbotson’s Potatoes.

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