Defra’s decision to reciprocate the EU’s ban on the import of seed potatoes from Great Britain has been welcomed by Scottish growers
The move follows the ending of a six-month authorisation which had allowed imports from Europe after the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with Europe failed to agree equivalence on seed potatoes at the end of 2020.
It meant the market for around 300,000 tonnes of mainly high-health Scottish seed tatties, worth £13.5 million, was lost overnight, and after an application for equivalence status was rejected by the EU, the industry called for a reciprocal ban on EU imports.
Scottish producers now hope Defra’s decision will bring fresh impetus to talks, although the move will cause problems for many English growers who will be unable to source their preferred European-grown varieties.
NFU Scotland’s (NFUS) potatoes committee chair, Mike Wilson said extending the authorisation for a further six months had the potential to devastate Scotland’s seed potato industry.
“We welcome that the UK Government’s allowance for EU seed potatoes to be sold to GB has now officially been ended,” he said.
“This means that potato growers throughout Britain will have to source their seed from within Britain, which is good news for Scotland’s seed potato sector. The GB market is quite different from the EU market, so the potato sector has quite a task on its hands to develop and supply this internal market.
“In the meantime, NFUS will be working with Government and our European counterparts to regain access to the EU market. This will not be an easy task as the EU Commission has made it very clear on several occasions that the seed potato trade is a casualty of Brexit.”
Specialist seed grower Andrew Skea also welcomed Defra’s decision.
“It was the only option left – we couldn’t continue to allow seed to come here when ours was banned,” he said.
“But neither can we just replace European imports. Without access to the varieties they want, farmers in England will have to make major compromises and be forced to grow their second options. ”
The only EU seed potatoes that can continue to be imported into Britain are those that are being used for test and trial purposes or micro plants and micro tubers for breeding and trialling.