The heart of UK horticulture remains in a state of uncertainty as the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) struggles against adverse circumstances.

AHDB is currently spread across temporary offices in Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, with some workers in freezing “summer pavilions” originally intended just for use during the Royal Show.

The body is searching for offices to bring the levy boards into one building with options including the “outdated” old Royal Agricultural Society of England building, after plans to move into new £4.7m premises were scrapped.

The board is officially “under review” according to the Cabinet Office but DEFRA has assured it is “to be retained”.

DEFRA is to meet with leaders from all sectors to discuss the future of the AHDB. The board is almost entirely funded by levy payments but it has been suggested that DEFRA has too much influence on the body as it views the levy as a parafiscal tax.

NFU senior parliamentary advisor Matt Ware said: “The AHDB being placed under review was either a technical oversight or an ideological opposition as government do not want statutory levies on products. I think that growers realise that while they do not like paying levies, it should be compulsory to prevent freeloaders.”

AHDB head of communications Guy Attenborough told FPJ: “We are not part of the DEFRA Delivery Network but we come very closely under ministerial control and we should not be under such tight controls as we are industry funded. [Farming minister] Jim Paice has recognised this and although creating a voluntary levy is not possible, there could be change.”

Possible options may include reclassifying the body as an independent, non-departmental body with more flexibility but with a compulsory levy.

DEFRA could not confirm when the meeting to review the AHDB would be, but it is thought it is to take place before the start of the next financial year. Any decision would need to be signed off by the Treasury so the process is likely to be lengthy.

Anglian Pea Growers chairman Richard Hirst said: “It appears there are too many silos and if they want to make efficiency savings they need to look at areas where there is overlap.”