The UK’s departure from the European Union has created a catch-22 for some Irish farmers who can no longer import British seed potatoes but the move could revitalise the domestic trade in the product.
The import ban has the potential to cause headaches for farmers growing potatoes for consumers and for the snack industry, with a switch to seed potato from the Continent bringing increased transport costs and the prospect of importing diseases.
Before the Brexit trade deal there was concern over a threat to the traditional “chipper chip” as it was unclear if the British potatoes traditionally used in Irish fish and chip shops could still be imported. The pre-Christmas trade agreement between the EU and UK resolved that issue and British “table” potatoes continue to cross the Irish Sea.
However, seed potatoes – from which farmers grow their crop – can no longer make the same journey as EU-UK phytosanitary regulations are now not aligned.
The Department of Agriculture warned Irish farmers of the issue last year given their reliance on seed potatoes from Britain, particularly Scotland. Most stocked up before the end of the Brexit transition period so they could plant their crops this spring.
Thomas McKeown, chairman of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) potato committee, said the production of potatoes would be unaffected this year as most had planned ahead. However, he warned that the ban could present “a huge problem” next year and beyond.