‘Potatoes less exposed to Brexit risks than many other sectors’

Brexit may provide potato farmers with an opportunity to substitute imports if trade barriers are imposed by Brussels.

As a result, it means the sector could be less exposed than others in the industry.

That is the message from David Swales, head of strategic insight at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), who spoke at ‘Potatoes in Practice’ in Dundee on Thursday, August 9.

“Tariff-free access is critical for most sectors, but for potatoes, barriers might present opportunities for import substitution – particularly in the processing sector,” he said.

‘Maximise potential opportunity’

As he addressed a predominantly Scottish audience, Swales said: “That for the potato industry north of the border, trade barriers may translate into a larger domestic market for seed producers.”

Some of Scotland’s specific challenges come from the type of land available to farmers.

Field of potatoes, potato blight

“When unfavourable land conditions are coupled with an uncertain post-Brexit outlook for the cropping sector, businesses must maximise their potential opportunities,” he said.

Undoubtedly the UK is entering a period of uncertainty in the coming months in light of an imminent European Union departure.

The Brexit impact calculator

In an attempt to ensure a smooth transition into life after Brexit, AHDB has launched a new online calculator.

The AHDB calculator is part of a wider suite of practical business tools unveiled by the organisation.

The Brexit Impact Calculator allows individuals to input their own data and see what effects the different Brexit scenarios might have on their business.

Met Eireann, Blight, Blight Warning, potato

“Despite the potential opportunities in potatoes, tremendous uncertainty still surrounds the outcome of Brexit negotiations.

Where the seed sector is concerned, a no-deal Brexit and the associated potential tariffs and trade barriers are significant risks.

In any eventuality, it is important that businesses make proactive and strategic decisions to be fit for the future.

Farmer feedback

According to Swales farmers and growers have been expressing mounting concern about how the different scenarios might affect them.

The AHDB representative also highlighted tools that are available to farmers to help them understand what Brexit could mean for their bottom line.

The calculator is just part of a wider tool list which looks at five key areas of the business covering topics, from being efficient with resources to financial management and planning for the future. The five areas are:

  • Review of farm business;
  • Profit and performance;
  • Brexit scenario planning;
  • Individual farm performance – technical change;
  • Getting the most from the marketplace.

The toolkit also features a resilience checklist which uses questions to identify areas of the business that may benefit from additional attention to ensure it is sustainable after Brexit.