The ongoing post-Brexit ban on selling seed potatoes to the valuable European market continues to anger and frustrate Scottish growers according to NFU Scotland.
The union is calling for urgent action from the EU Commission and the UK government to agree a new model for two-way trade in seed potatoes between GB, the EU and Northern Ireland, but fears that politics will continue to rob Scottish growers of a valuable market.
The Trade and Co-operation Agreement with Europe, announced at the end of 2020 as part of Brexit, failed to agree equivalence on seed potatoe.
This resulted in significant prohibitions on Scottish seed exports to the EU and Northern Ireland.
The consequence for growers was immediate and remain in force according to the union.
Pre-Brexit, Scotland exported around 20,000t of high health seed potatoes, worth almost £11 million, to Europe each year. Scotland exported seed to 18 EU countries in 2020/21.
However, imports of seed potatoes from the EU to GB have been made possible, with Defra permitting the importation providing they are not used for ‘marketing purposes.’
The union said that this has meant the internal GB market for seed potatoes has not developed as much as it could have done, to the detriment of Scottish seed growers.
Last week, NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy, vice-presidents Andrew Connon and Robin Traquair accompanied Robin Manning and Jenny Brunton from the UK Unions’ Brussels office to meet officials from DG SANTE – the European Commission’s Directorate-General responsible for policy on food safety and health.
Speaking after the meeting, Kennedy said:
“The current ban on the trade of seed potatoes from GB to the EU and Northern Ireland continues to cause huge amounts of anger for growers.
“This was a robust meeting with officials in Brussels but, frustratingly, the UK and the EU remain at loggerheads on this matter, and it is Scottish seed potato growers who are paying the price for an issue that is becoming increasingly political.
“In the meeting, we made it abundantly clear that the prohibition on the import of GB seed potatoes into the EU cannot be justified based on current plant health and marketing standards in either the EU or UK.
“Urgent action is now needed by the EU Commission and the UK government to agree a new model for two-way trade in seed potatoes between GB and the EU, and Northern Ireland.”