The UK government has proposed dramatic increases in costs for its plant health services.
The revised costs, proposed in a consultation by the Food and Environment Research Agency, would increase fees by more than 400% for some services, reported Farmers Weekly Interactive.
For example, FERA is proposing a 458% increase in Import Inspection Service costs for plant health checks. A mandatory check of a 25 metric tonne consignment of potatoes would increase from £54.26 to £251.31.
In addition, a 268% increase in import inspections for potatoes imported from Egypt has been suggested. Tests for brown rot would increase from £37.50 to £138.11.
FERA, an executive agency of DEFRA, launched the consultation on Tuesday (11 October) in a bid to move to full cost recovery for the statutory services and remove the burden from the taxpayer.
Five statutory services are covered in the consultation, including plant health, potato and potato seed regulations.
The recommended option is for a phased increase in fees over three years, achieving full cost recovery by 2014/15.
The eight-week consultation will discuss proposals with stakeholders, such as the NFU and Potato Council, to raise charges for services in England and Wales.
Any increase in fees could affect growers who use the services directly, such as the seed potato certification service.
But there could be an indirect impact on growers, such as increasing fees on imported seed potatoes. However, it remains to be seen whether businesses or agencies will absorb costs or pass them on.