The new group hopes to raise GBP 250,000 (about USD 327,531) per year based on members paying around GBP 40 (about USD 52.41) /hectare of planted seed potatoes. There is planned additional income from associated members and trade organizations which will help top up the co-op’s funds.
The body is to be in collaboration with Scottishpotatoes.org (a partnership of SRUC, JHI, and SASA) which is offering to support the organization during its formation. There will also be input from NFU Scotland and Scottish Agronomy alongside support from SAOS in establishing the co-op structure.
The Forfar meeting was attended by 15 invited seed potato growers and followed a similar meeting earlier in the week at Kinross. From this, there is now a ten-member steering group of growers who will develop the co-op. The steering group aims to launch the body at the Potatoes in Practice event scheduled for August.
The voluntary membership will be primarily Scottish businesses, however, the group could look to expand into England if there was a benefit.
Mike Wilson, Lead organizer and NFUS potato chair of Clochcan farm:
"We are one of if not the best at producing seed potatoes in the world. We need to try and focus on keeping that standard and this new co-op will help us achieve it. Key to the new body is that it will be 100% grower led. Only growers will be able to decide how the money is spent."The body will initially use volunteers to get it off the ground, before employing a small quantity of staff. There will be a governance process including a board and elected chairperson. As a co-op voting will be based on one member, one vote regardless of the area of potatoes grown by each farmer.
Ten growers have volunteered to form a steering group to get the new group off the ground. This group will work with SAOS to ensure a robust governance and membership process is created. As a co-op, democratic representation is key to the new organization. Mike believes one of the key areas of work for the new body will be researching.
"We need to do work with virus on seed potatoes. AHDB had yellow aphid traps and we will look into continuing that work. Blight research is also needed and further down the line we could even look at genetic modification."
The group hopes to be in a position for seed potato growers to join the co-op this time next year.
Meanwhile, a consignment of 2000 tonnes of seed potatoes is heading for Russia despite criticism the shipment shouldn’t go ahead [Update: this shipment was suspended]
The shipment is heading for food giant Pepsico who will use the seed potatoes to grow to produce crisps. There is no legal impediment to exporting seed potatoes to Russia as they do not fall under any of the sanctions created after the Ukraine invasion.
Rachael Hamilton, Secretary of Scottish Conservative Shadow Cabinet for Rural Affairs and Islands:
"Questions will need to be answered as to why the SNP Government approved the deal at this time."