A British Growers Association report calls on the government to preserve and enhance the Producer Organisation (PO) Scheme once the UK has left Europe.
The PO scheme must be retained in the post-Brexit environment otherwise UK growers will be at a “distinct disadvantage”, says Jack Ward, chief executive of British Growers Association, which together with Savills, released “Producer Organisations After Brexit”, this week.
And by improving POs, British growers would be better positioned to take real advantage of market opportunities presented once the UK leaves Europe, rather than lose out to competitors.
The report summarises how the current scheme – where growers join together and receive match-funding support from government – is run by the EU and outlines several advantages and success stories of industry collaboration and innovation which has helped increase sales of produce across several markets.
It highlights a number of PO-driven initiatives including production increases in strawberries and apples, investment in onion storage and better grading and packing, and marketing in the soft fruit sector.
The report also delves into post-Brexit possibilities and how improving the scheme could help the Government and the fresh produce industry succeed.
POs are part of the EU-run Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Aid Scheme, helping growers with good environmental practice and providing commercial benefits like access to machinery and investment as well as improving marketing.
“Unlike other sectors, fresh produce has not benefitted from direct subsidies, but the match-funding provided to Producer Organisations has proved to be an important factor for many growers,” adds Ward.
“A new and enhanced scheme could go a long way towards helping the industry to compete and grow its share of the UK market, while meeting the objectives set out by the Government.
“On the other hand, the absence of an effective scheme would put British growers at a distinct disadvantage to their counterparts within the EU.”
The report also explains how POs back the Government’s vision for the future of agri-food by supporting the key objectives of meeting global demand, being productive, competitive, sustainable, trustworthy and resilient.
“We have a number of compelling case studies that demonstrate how the PO Scheme has worked to improve marketing, innovation and collaboration in the industry,” adds Ward.
“It is no exaggeration to say that some key sectors in fresh produce would not be where they are without successful POs. Without a scheme, it is difficult to see how UK growers can compete and negotiate successfully in one of the most competitive marketplaces in the world.
“We believe that a post-Brexit scheme can be even more successful, involve more growers, deliver greater benefits and help UK growers to compete on a level playing field with European producers.”