NSA responds to proposed AHDB levy changes

NSA responds to proposed AHDB levy changes

Following the announcement from AHDB that its sector councils are to begin discussions regarding levy fees, the National Sheep Association (NSA) said it recognises the necessity of increasing levy investment in the sheep sector.

AHDB has proposed increases to levy that could be introduced from early next year.

Following a consultation earlier this year, AHDB has proposed increases to its levy that, if approved, could be introduced from April next year.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker says: “No one welcomes costs increasing, but if we want a body to promote red meat products, to open new export markets, and to work to protect the reputation and ability of our industry then we must accept that it needs funding. All costs have risen, including those of AHDB, and the HMRC decision that VAT must be paid on levy money has effectively reduced the funds available to work for our industry. What is crucial now, following on from the recent strategy review and levy payer consultation, is that AHDB must buckle down and do the work levy payers need done.” 

NSA believes that now is a vital time for AHDB to demonstrate efficient use of levy payers’ money. A significant restructure and a further reduction in operating costs by moving out of its Stoneleigh HQ, NSA said, is evidence that this has already begun.

Stocker continued: “AHDB needs to demonstrate a tight ship using levy money wisely and to maximum effect. Opening up global markets for our lamb, and promoting it where we already have access, including our domestic markets has to be a key priority. But then underpinning this with evidence and information to protect and enhance our reputation and our performance follows on seamlessly. NSA supports the proposal for an increase in levy but it mustn’t allow for any complacency.”

NSA responded to the consultation on the proposed levy increase earlier this year, highlighting that any decision to change rates must only be made by Ministers following a further detailed consultation by AHDB with levy payers about where payments should be directed in the longer term, and what the implications any change could have on the delivery of AHDB services to the sector.

“There must be clear value and communication of the value to levy payers on the areas of development and research that any potential increase would be used for. NSA is looking forward to analysing the proposals and is encouraged to see investment in opportunities for the sheep meat sector.”

Stocker concluded: “AHDB is an invaluable asset to the sheep sector in tackling opportunities and challenges that are not challenged by the private sector or government. Ensuring work is supported especially in navigating and identifying trading partnerships for the sector is especially valuable at a time when the world market is vital in ensuring demand for high quality produce.”

NPA has been involved in the discussion, taking the stance that it is necessary to increase the levy in order to combat rising costs.

NPA chief executive Lizzie Wilson said: “AHDB, similar to many other industry organisations increasingly consider just what they are able to deliver from the reduced income they receive, whilst still demonstrating value for money to their levy payers.”

This echoes what NSA wants to see from AHDB, with both parties hoping to see the levy money used to maximum effect.

She added: “AHDB previously committed to prioritising three key areas; maintaining and building the sector’s reputation, increasing domestic demand and market access and export promotion, but a lack of adequate resource will mean diminishing effectiveness.

“NPA encourages all levy payers to engage fully with AHDB as part of this consultation process to ensure that levy payer views are represented.”

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