R&D funding could be raised via retailer levy, says forum

The shortfall of government funding for horticultural research and development could be solved by a retailer levy on fresh produce, according to industry figures.

The National Horticultural Forum (NHF) is due to release a report in two weeks containing the suggestion that retailers could contribute to funding horticultural research and development.

NHF chairman Andrew Colquhoun said: "The report points out that for cereals and potatoes the buyers and processors do pay a levy, albeit on a lower scale than producers, whereas in horticulture it is only the producers who pay.

"But to secure a levy contribution from buyers and processors would require action by Defra to make an Order in Council or another enabling legislation."

Grower Derf Paton raised the research levy issue in a letter to HW (17 July) when he suggested that the public could make "a direct contribution (towards research) from a very tiny levy, part of a penny in the pound, on fresh produce into a central fund to be administered by Defra - this would replace government funding".

He added that it was necessary to find a new way to fund environmental and agricultural research.

The consequences of the most recent cuts in government funding were felt last week by Warwick's HRI Kirton research centre, which, Grower revealed, will close, after running operations until early 2009.

- See Grower p47 for a report on Lord Selbourne's declaration that the decline of research is the greatest threat to the edibles sector.

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