New PO Scheme will help fresh produce succeed post-Brexit

by Peter Crowe

New PO Scheme will help fresh produce succeed post-Brexit

An improved Producer Organisation Scheme could help the Government and the fresh produce industry to succeed in the post-Brexit world, according to a new report from the British Growers Association and Savills. The report called ‘Producer Organisations after Brexit’ was launched at Fruit Focus. It outlines how the current Scheme run by the EU has helped to facilitate collaboration and innovation in the industry, while driving up sales in some markets. It also outlines a vision for a British Producer Organisation Scheme following Brexit.

Jack Ward, Chief Executive of British Growers, said: “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. 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 counter-parts within the EU.”

Within the EU Producer Organisations (POs) are run as part of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Aid Scheme. Formed at the initiative of growers, they encourage sound environmental practice, as well as providing commercial benefits including improved planning, sharing of intelligence and resources, access to machinery and investment, and better marketing.

The report demonstrates how POs have benefitted UK horticulture, the overall economy, and UK consumer. It also outlines the consequences of not having a scheme post-Brexit. The UK Government has outlined its vision for the future of agri-food around five principles:

·       Global demand

·       Productive and competitive

·       Sustainable

·       Trust

·       Resilient

 The report demonstrates how Producer Organisations can support each of these five.

“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,” says Jack, “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 market-places 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.”

The report provides a number of case studies of successful PO-driven initiatives including growth in productivity in strawberries and apples; a successful investment in onion storage; and better grading and packing, and marketing in the soft fruit sector.