ASPG Inc. supported project – Establishment of a Marketing Levy for Sweetpotatoes

The Australian Sweetpotato industry is valued over $80 million and has seen significant growth and development in recent years. However production has started to exceed demand and as a result retail pressure is forcing-down growers’ returns. Market research has shown that with promotion, more people can be prompted to buy Sweetpotatoes; and those that already do, buy more.

In August 2008, at a General Meeting the motion of establishing a Marketing Levy was voted on and carried by a majority of ASPG members. Following considerable discussion in April 2012 ASPG Inc. commenced the process of consultation and formal ballot to establish a separate statutory levy to promote Sweetpotatoes. The aim was for growers to spend their own money to promote sweetpotatoes. No Commonwealth contribution would be required.

In October 2012 the Australian Electoral Commission conducted a formal ballot of all known sweetpotato growers in Australia. The results were outstanding; 83% of growers participated in the ballot with 92.5% voting in support of the levy. It is estimated those voting in favour of the proposal represent over 90% of Australia’s sweetpotato production. ASPG Inc. understands this is among the highest levels (both participation and support) ever achieved, for the establishment of a primary produce levy.

Soon after the ballot (December 2012) ASPG forwarded the formal levy proposal to the Minister. In the following 16 months the proposal worked through the required administrative processes. During this period there was a change in government with a new minister to approve the proposal.

In May 2014 the Minister advised that he was unwilling to agree to a new levy at this time. This was very disappointing for ASPG, as we had developed the submission strictly adhering to the government’s Levy Principles and Guidelines. The process was lengthy and costly for growers. At no time was it suggested that ASPG should not develop the proposal; nor that the government would not enable any new levies. ASPG liaised throughout the process with both the Department and the office of the respective Ministers; and responded promptly to every request for more information or detail.

ASPG continued to lobby the minister until 2 September 2014 when the Senate moved that the following matter: “The industry structures and systems governing the imposition of and disbursement of marketing and research and development (R&D) levies in the agricultural sector” be referred to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee for inquiry and report.

ASPG on behalf of members made a submission to inquiry, which is to report by 30 June 2015.

Finally in December 2015 ASPG was advised that Senator the Hon. Anne Ruston, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, had approved the regulations to implement a sweetpotato marketing levy from January 2016. Funds raised by the levy are payable to Horticulture Innovation Australia Ltd. The eligible industry body for the sweetpotato marketing levy is Australian Sweetpotato Growers Inc.