Conservatives may consider privatising the AHDB

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Agriculture minister George Eustice refuses to rule out AHDB privatisation
Agriculture minister George Eustice refuses to rule out AHDB privatisation

Related tags Agriculture

The future of the agriculture levy boards, which form part of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB,) in public hands could be in doubt following the suggestion by a senior industry source that the Conservative government might consider the organisation’s privatisation.

“I’d be surprised if they don’t privatise the levy boards​,” the source, who wished to remain anonymous, told over the past month.

When asked by this web site about the government’s plans for the ADHB yesterday at the British Meat Processors Association conference in London (June 4), agriculture minister George Eustice refused to rule out a privatisation option.

Eustice remarked that AHDB would be the subject of a “triennual review”​ next year (2016), when more was likely to be revealed.

Currently, the AHDB is a statutory levy board, funded by farmers, growers and others in the supply chain and managed as an independent organisation. It is independent of both commercial industry and government.

‘Triennual review’ of AHDB

He stressed that considerable progress had been made in reorganising the ADHB, which he noted played an important role in carrying out essential research in the sector and in promoting exports. “I’ve always said there is a strong case for the levy board in the agricultural sector,”​ said Eustice. However, when asked directly whether the future plans included the possibility of privatisation, he commented: “Well I’m not going to rule out anything, but we have no plans to privatise.”

At the conference, Eustice also noted that a food and farming strategy would be a priority for the new Conservative government. “We are going to start on that quite soon, with a view to completing that by the end of this year,”​ he said. “Inevitably, there are things that the government needs to do, and there are things that the industry needs to do as well.”

The news emerged as the AHDB is undergoing a significant reorganisation following the appointment of former Farmers Weekly​ editor Jane King as the AHDB’s ceo earlier this year. Since joining, King has been closely involved with the plans to reorganise its various AHDB levy paying bodies. Among others, these include BPEX, EBLEX, Home Grown Cereals Authority and DairyCo, responsible for the pig sector, beef and lamb sector, cereals and oils sector and dairy sector respectively.

New brand launch

Next Wednesday (June 10) the AHDB will be launching its new brand at the AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds stand at the national Cereals event at Boothby Graffoe near Lincoln. At the event AHDB chairman Peter Kendall will be joined by King to outline their ambition for the organisation and the benefits of ‘one AHDB’ delivering for levy payers.

Speaking at the Agricultural Industries Confederation conference last year, Kendall detailed the role he believed the AHDB should play across the supply chain – as a centre of excellence within agriculture.

“AHDB has a long-term ambition for its levy payers and UK agriculture​,” said Kendal. “We want to provide levy payers with the right tools to become the most efficient and sustainable businesses they can be  I want to work with the industry to ensure AHDB becomes that world-leading centre of excellence for UK agriculture working across the supply chain.”

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