The seed potato crisis now impacting in Northern Ireland (NI) has been confirmed by one of the largest companies operating in that sector.
The issue relates to the outright ban on the importation of seed potatoes from Great Britain and in particular Scotland, which are subsequently used by farmers in NI.
The matter was recently highlighted to Northern Ireland Minister of State, Steve Baker.
“The matter is at crisis point,” Wilson’s Country CEO, Angus Wilson stated.
“Local potato growers depend very heavily on seed imported from Scotland.
“If the Northern Ireland Protocol is not amended to take account of growers’ needs, it could severely damage the competitiveness of potato production here in Northern Ireland.
“All the seed potatoes imported into Northern Ireland could remain here for planting purposes,” he added.
The potato company chief feels that there is no reason why the matter cannot be resolved through the Protocol review negotiations, now taking place between the UK and the European Union.
Meeting with minister
The matter was discussed in detail with Northern Ireland Minister of State, Steve Baker, during his recent visit to the Wilson’s potato packing and processing plant at Craigavon in Co. Armagh.
The minister saw first-hand, the beneficial impact of recent investment projects at Wilson’s Country.
“There is an onus on government to step in and help the potato sector in whatever way it can to ensure a competitive and sustainable industry for Northern Ireland within the British Isles,” Angus Wilson continued.
Following his visit to Wilson’s Country, Minister of State for Northern Ireland Steve Baker commented:
“The Protocol is causing serious disruption to NI’s business interests, including within the agri-food sector.
“It is unacceptable that essential goods used successfully in Northern Ireland for generations, like seed potatoes, can no longer reach people in Northern Ireland.
“Strong and competitive businesses like Wilson’s Country must be helped to maintain the agri-food sector.
“The UK government is working to safeguard key supply chains like those for seed potatoes from the burdensome and unnecessary application of rules under the Protocol,” he added
The minister of state said that a negotiated outcome with the EU is the clear preference.
“However, if we are unable to reach a negotiated solution, our legislation, which has passed the House of Commons with no amendments, aims to restore balance and remove burdensome restrictions such as those blocking seed potato imports, all the while protecting the legitimate interests of the European Union and Ireland,” he stated.