'Major change': AHDB unveils 2021-2026 strategy

AHDB says the new strategy aims to improve value for levy payers
AHDB says the new strategy aims to improve value for levy payers

AHDB has unveiled its new five-year strategy with a focus on improving accountability, boosting export markets and farm business performance.

The 2021-2026 strategy [PDF] lays out AHDB's plans for the next five years as it embarks on a 'major change' to improve value for levy payers.

A ballot will be held every five years on the future of the levy, as AHDB says it is 'committed' make the organisation accountable to farmers and growers.

The detail around the ballot process is currently under discussion with Defra, which is legally responsible for it.

A new online service will be also launched for levy payers to leave feedback, review AHDB's performance and talk to technical specialists.

The levy board says it will work with horticulture and potato growers and the supply chain to design a 'modern levy system'.

The wide-ranging strategy pledges to bring data, insight and analysis together in an 'easy-to-use format' to help farmers make better business decisions.

On exports, the levy board wants to grow opportunities for farmers by opening five new export markets to a value of £577m by 2026.

It also pledges to help businesses reduce their environmental footprint to meet future policy, and invest in targeted research to tackle pests, weeds and diseases.

Speaking of the strategy, AHDB Chairman Nicholas Saphir said it came at a 'challenging time' as the sector faced 'significant uncertainty in the coming weeks and years'.

“New international trading arrangements, leaving the EU, environmental and sustainability concerns, changes to UK farm and land policy, and significant shifts in consumer behaviour will impact us all.

"AHDB is committed to change to better support you and your business to meet these challenges," Mr Saphir added.

"AHDB’s strategy lays out how we will improve levy payer engagement, reduce bureaucracy, focus our activities and reduce costs"

The NFU has welcomed the new strategy, saying the levy board had 'clearly listened' to industry proposals to improve transparency and governance.

The union's president Minette Batters said: “It is crucial that any multi-annual strategy results in an organisation that offers fantastic value for levy investment, alongside greater agility and accountability as farmers meet the challenge of sustainable production this coming decade.

“We will be examining the strategy in greater detail as there are still areas that are not altogether clear, such as how outcomes of levy investment will be measured.

"We will continue to work with our members to put forward their views during the consultation period."