UK and EU urged to remove seed potato export barriers

MPs have written to the UK government and the EU urging both sides to remove barriers regarding the export of Scottish seed potatoes to the bloc.

The SNP MPs have echoed the concerns of NFU Scotland over the continuing obstacles farmers face in exporting seed potatoes to the EU.

Agriculture is a significant contributor to the Scottish economy, generating a gross output of £3.3bn annually, and Scottish seed potatoes are a crucial import for European markets.

The high quality of Scottish seed potatoes is reflected in the fact that Scotland grows 75% of the UK’s seed potatoes which are exported to more than 40 countries.

However, since January 2021, farmers have been unable to export seed potatoes to the EU, including Northern Ireland, due to changes in post-Brexit trade rules.

The barriers have been put in place despite there being no change to the domestic UK plant health requirements for seed potatoes dating from when the UK exited from the EU on this date, or indeed any reduction in the quality of the product itself.

Richard Thomson MP (Gordon), Alyn Smith MP (Stirling) and Dave Doogan MP (Angus) all represent constituencies containing significant farming communities.

Writing to the UK’s International Trade Secretary, the MPs said it was 'deeply concerning' that Scotland’s farmers were unable to export seed potatoes to the EU.

"As you may know, potatoes grown in Europe are vulnerable to developing diseases which ultimately render the crops unsuitable

"Without ready access to an ongoing supply of the disease-free seed potato crop which Scotland can produce, there will be a steady diminution in quality of the potatoes able to be grown in the EU, which will begin to affect EU farmers, food producers and ultimately, consumers as well."

The MPs added: “We believe that there would be an overwhelming mutual benefit for both the UK and the EU if a way could be found to swiftly remove the current barriers to trade in this important sector.

“There is a strong desire amongst farmers and food producers alike in the EU to once again be able to import high quality Scottish seed potatoes.

"That desire is entirely reciprocated by the Scottish producers, who once again wish to be able to meet that demand.”

NFU Scotland's vice president Andrew Connon said recently that it was 'apparent' that European growers sought Scottish seed potatoes, and vice versa.

“The EU trade situation is a bad one for the whole potato sector, with no winners," he added.

"As we move forward, we must think about what’s best in the long-term for the Scottish potato sector.

"Seed potato trade with the EU and GB must be reciprocal, this is an established principle that must remain in place for our members’ interests."

Source: Farming UK