Horticultural Crop Protection Ltd explains how funding for EAMUs and EAs will work as AHDB petitioners hit back at AHDB grant for the new company

Horticultural Crop Protection Ltd, the company set up during the winding down of AHDB Horticulture, has announced who will sit on its board as well as revealing details of how crop protection products will be authorised.

With AHDB Horticulture set to close its doors next month, the industry has taken on the task of processing Extensions of Authorisation for Minor Uses (EAMUs) and Emergency Authorisations (EAs) to ensure UK growers have access to the necessary plant protection products.

The service, currently provided by AHDB, ceases at the end of March 2023. And over the last 12 months various horticultural industry figures have been working to put in place a new system to continue the work once the commitment from AHDB ends.

Working through British Growers and its network of horticultural crop associations, a small steering group was set up in 2022 under the chairmanship of leading asparagus grower John Chinn to explore how best to continue the AHDB’s EAMU function based on a voluntary subscription approach.

This resulted in the creation of Horticultural Crop Protection Ltd (HCP), a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee and owned by its members, who are the crop associations.

The new organisation’s ownership model is similar to the one used by British Growers, which ensures the industry has complete control over all its activities, according to British Growers CEO Jack Ward.

HCP elects board

On 7 February, HCP held its first AGM to elect the following board of directors, several of whom also sat on the AHDB Horticulture board.

  • Ali Capper (nominated by the topfruit sector)
  • Louise Sutherland (nominated by the berry sector)
  • Sam Rix (onions)
  • Rob Parker (salads)
  • Keston Williams (field vegetables)
  • Derek Wilkinson (field vegetables)
  • Robin Squance (ornamentals)
  • Rob James (protected edibles)

Funding for the EAMU and EA work will be via a voluntary subscription. This will be collected on a crop-by-crop basis through the network of crop associations and other crop/industry-specific groups.

According to the organisation, the cost per business – if everyone pays – will be less than in the past.

Each association is being given the choice of how to collect these funds. Some are opting for an area-based charge while others are looking at a value-based charge.

Details of the suggested rates should be available shortly once they are agreed by each crop association. Some crop associations have already reached agreement with their members.

Control of the work undertaken by HCP, and the EAMUs and EAs applied for, will rest with the relevant crop association. In conjunction with HCP, each association will be asked to identify its crop protection priorities.

This is the model used by AHDB Horticulture, which processed around 80-90 applications each year.

“After a year of hard work, we now have the basis of an alternative service, said Ward. “If this is to succeed it needs the commitment of all growers, large and small, and across the full spectrum of the crops grown here in the UK.”

Further details of subscription rates will be published by each crop association as they are agreed, he said.

Criticism over grant

In November 2022 it was announced that AHDB had agreed to transfer surplus levy funds to HCP. The AHDB board said it had agreed in principle for the transfer of up to £1 million to the new horticultural company.

According to AHDB, the funding is aimed at bringing a degree of certainty and enabling “important ongoing work to continue as the new organisation develops its operation”.

However, the so-called ‘AHDB petitioners’ whose campaign brought the ballot that led to the closure of AHDB Horticulture and Potatoes, said they believe this grant would disadvantage those in the industry “who have been quietly and independently getting on with the work on EAMUs”.

They added: “Unlike existing companies doing EAMU work, this new company has no track record of either efficiency or results.

“While growers are free to support such a new company if they wish, it should not be on the back of surplus levies from growers who have struggled to pay under legal threat.

“The majority expect their monies to be paid back, which in any democratic organisation, would happen. Why not with AHDB?

“It is evident from AHDB’s action via their main board that they still do not accept the result of the ballot, with more than 60 per cent of levy payers voting no to any more research or EAMUs, having lost faith in AHDB’s effect on the industry.

“It is apparent that AHDB do not, and perhaps never have, understood the financial pressures horticulture has laboured under in comparison to the subsidised agriculture they are surrounded by.

“We have no opposition to the voluntary action by crop associations to carry on with EAMUs – but not with our money.”

AHDB response

In response, AHDB’s sector director for horticulture, Dr Rob Clayton, said: “The proposed grant is supported by the majority of the horticulture sector, with chairs from 14 crop associations consulting their members and making the request for this grant directly to AHDB and Defra.

“During the period of transition from the existing system to the new organisation, the team at AHDB are managing the pipeline of work on EAs and EAMUs to give the new organisation the greatest chance of success.

“We are entering into this grant arrangement with a complete overview of EAMUs and EAs that are being applied for through AHDB’s partnership work with the ag chem sector. Efficiency and results feature heavily within the measures associated with a grant of this type.”