Pumpkin man David takes stance on ‘levy’

David Bowman who is taking a stance against payment of an expensive professional levy. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG190612-141TW
David Bowman who is taking a stance against payment of an expensive professional levy. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG190612-141TW
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EUROPE’S largest pumpkin grower David Bowman, who is based in Spalding, is refusing to pay his professional levy, calling the body that charges it “an expensive waste of space”.

David, who grows about 4 million pumpkins at his site in Wrangle Gate, Low Fulney, as well as elsewhere in the district, has failed to make the last quarterly payment due to The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

“They do nothing for pumpkin growers and they have actually sent me an email to say they are doing nothing, and it is costing me about £10,000 a year,” said David.

The AHDB is legally obliged to collect a horticulture industry levy from those liable to pay. According to the organisation, these funds are ring-fenced and used by its HDC (Horticultural Development Company) to fund research which it shares with growers.

A spokesman for AHDB disputed that the research does not help pumpkin growers, saying: “In addition to a wide range of cross sector work relevant to pumpkin growing (mechanical and electronic weeding just one example), HDC has invested over £50,000 on crop protection solutions and knowledge transfer materials. Currently in production is a Cucurbit Crop Walker Guide and Factsheet.”

However, David said he felt that while flower growers gained from a lot of the research, he and other niche growers gained very little from the levy.

He said: “Flower growers think they are wonderful because they are doing a lot of research and the rest of us think they are an expensive waste of space.

“We have to pay five per cent of turnover. You can make a damn great loss and still be facing a huge bill from HDC. I have been in the job 40 years and I don’t need them to tell me how to grow pumpkins. I have been paying this for years.

“If 80 growers demand a vote they have to take it to a minister to decide, but I have voted with my feet and stopped paying.”

The AHDB spokesperson said non-payment of levy is taken very seriously and that appropriate action is taken against those who fail to pay. The spokesperson also said HDC recognises the importance of working with all niche growers and is encouraging pumpkin growers to set up a group to identify future research needs.