A government decision to maintain the annual €40 million EU funding for producer organisations (POs) has been hailed as a huge boost for the fruit and vegetable sector. The decision taken by Defra means it will take over the funding after Brexit and has guaranteed it until the end of this parliament – scheduled for May 2022.
The €40 million worth of support for UK POs is currently provided by the EU under the Fresh Fruit and Veg Scheme.
Growers in the 33 UK organisations then use their own money to match the funding, pound for pound, to create a total of about £70 million. This can be used to help fund improvements in their operations, including to storage and processing facilities, hiring specialist staff and developing new varieties.
Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Growers’ Association, explained his relief at the continued funding, which he said was vital for the organisations to operate and remain competitive: “While the government had committed to funding general farm support beyond Brexit, POs had not received the same confirmation until this week.”
According fwi.co.uk, key competitor countries all make far greater use of the available funding because growers in continental Europe collaborate to a far greater extent. While the UK draws about €40 mln (£35 mln) a year, France, Italy and Spain take about five times more, at close to €200 mln (£175 mln) each year to fund their POs.