In recent years exports of seed potatoes from Scotland have gradually increased to the point where they are now worth millions of pounds to the economy.
With a view to further promoting this trade, British potato exporters will next week attend the Potato Europe event in Emmelord, Holland. With more than 250 exhibitors and 15,000 visitors from around the world, Potato Europe is seen as a key marketplace for the GB potato sector.
Among the companies and organisations exhibiting this year are Greenvale AP, Caithness Potatoes, Cygnet PEP, James Hutton, Cullen Allen and SASA.
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Speaking ahead of the event, Niall Arbuckle from Greenvale AP said the show was the ideal venue for striking deals with key clients in countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Israel and Jordan.
“It’s an intense couple of days where we sit down with our customers and agree tonnages for the coming export season,” he said. “We’ll discuss quality and quantity and the end result is usually 10,000-12,000 tonnes of potatoes ordered from our key customers.”
Stephen Hole from Caithness Potatoes described Potato Europe as a really important international meeting place, especially as in the potato business there are none too many opportunities to sit down face to face with clients.
“As well as discussing potential orders for the coming season we want to make our customers aware that have recently started producing seed in four European countries, Holland, France, Denmark and Poland,” he said.
“This will give European customers the opportunity to purchase high quality seed locally and so allows us to access previously untapped markets.”
The AHDB Export Team’s Rob Burns said he would be pushing the benefits of GB’s high health seed potato sector.
“Britain currently exports seed potatoes to over 30 countries worldwide and AHDB is currently working on plans to both develop new markets and increase volumes currently going in to existing markets,” he said.
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“We are looking to increase our exports in a number of areas including Russia, the Middle East and Brazil and the show offers us the chance to continue discussions with these target markets. Middle East and the Gulf states are of particular interest as potential new markets as their previous supplier of seed potatoes have limited production as part of their water saving measures.”
Appeal for sheep support deadline extension
With 2017 being the fifth-wettest summer on record, NFU Scotland has appealed to the Scottish Government to extend the deadline for hill sheep farmers applying to the Scottish upland sheep support scheme (SUSSS).
The union’s argument is based on the fact that western Scotland has had more than half-a-metre of rain falling in the three months to 30 August. As a result, Scotland’s hill farmers are struggling to complete even routine tasks such as gathering and clipping sheep, weaning lambs and making hay or silage.
The union believes submitting an accurate application ahead of the 16 October deadline will be extremely challenging.
The scheme, worth around £6 million, is designed to assist active hill farmers and crofters with a payment coupled to the number of ewe hoggs they keep as breeding replacements for their flocks.
In a letter to cabinet secretary Fergus Ewing, the union has requested that Scottish Government seek European approval for a one-off extension to the application period for SUSSS to at least 16 November in recognition of the exceptionally poor weather.
Union vice-president Martin Kennedy said: “When committee members met last week it was crystal clear just how far behind our farmers and crofters are in their normal workload.
“NFU Scotland believes there is strong grounds for Scottish Government to pursue with the European Commission an extension to the application deadline due to the very challenging circumstances facing those who are reliant on SUSSS.”
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He added: “Given this year’s extremely poor weather, especially in the west, not only do some farmers and crofters not have any winter fodder made, but they have had little or no opportunity to gather some of these extensive hillsides to clip, wean lambs and draw their future breeding stock, routine tasks normally completed long before now.”