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Levy-payers want bottom line to rise.

Byline: By Anna Lognonne

Farmers and growers want the reformed levy groups to boost their profits and lower their costs, according to a newly published report.

As part of its efforts to reform the existing agricultural levy groups, Defra commissioned consultants Accenture to find out what the different sectors of agriculture and horticulture needed to prosper and how this could be best achieved for the levy payers.

The results of the research will provide the starting point for the Government's Fresh Start review of the levy boards.

Not surprisingly, the report stated that levy payers were particularly keen on seeing the new arrangements having an impact on their bottom line, both in terms of increased profitability and in terms of reducing their cost base.

Welcoming the report, Sustainable Farming and Food Minister Jeff Rooker said: "This research is vital in understanding the needs of levy payers and how best the new arrangements I announced last June can react by delivering improved services, targeted where they can have greatest impact."

The chair designate and the shadow board of Levy Board UK will use the results to inform decisions on the future activities of the new levy board and its six new sector companies.

The report stated that despite differences between the sectors, in terms of output, there was a strong commonality in the survey results, suggesting that the agricultural and horticultural sectors are facing a number of common issues, which should encourage further collaboration in the future.

It also highlighted that good communications with levy payers was a key concern and indicates that this will be a key challenge for Levy Board UK and the new sector companies. Easing the burden of bureaucracy and regulatory compliance was cited by many levy payers as a problem that needs to be addressed and the report stated that this represented a key challenge for the new structure to address.

Also, the research revealed that levy payers were keen to see more support channelled into the provision of information about the health and nutritional benefits of produce.

It stated: "Levy payers clearly support the case for further research and development in this area and in identifying new areas for product development and improving competitiveness in general."

John Bridge, chair designate of the new levy board, said: "First I am encouraged by the strong response and by the seeming unanimity across sectors.

"Levy payers have presented Levy Board UK and its six sector companies with a very challenging agenda, which we intend to fulfil, providing our levy payers with a strong base for success in the future."
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 5, 2007
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