Last year was one of the worst growing seasons ever and the grading out in the past couple of months has been carried out in difficult weather conditions but it looks as if Scottish seed potato exports will not fall far short of last year’s record level of just over 100,000 tonnes.
In fact, one of the main markets for seed from this country, Egypt has increased its tonnage to 41,000 tonnes which puts Scottish seed consignments to that country above Dutch seed for the first time ever.
Speaking at the important Fruit Logistica trade fair in Berlin, where the Potato Council had taken a stand for the first time, Robert Burns, head of seeds and export, said the current political situation in Egypt did not seem to be influencing the trade. “It is business as usual,” he said.
On Scottish export potential, he added: “The year started with drought conditions followed by a cold wet summer. Overall tonnage was down but almost everything lifted was seed size. Usable tonnage is comparable to last year. Exports are on track.”
Looking forward, Burns said Iraq and Libya were also potential new markets. They were both large countries which relied on imports but as yet there were no clear plant health tolerances in place.
Vietnam may well feature in future exports with Burns explaining that negotiation were well under way: “We still need to get the tolerances in place and we will heading to Vietnam in April to continue negotiations.
As to the question of a possible ban on seed potato exports to Russia from 1 April, Burns commented that it is still up for discussion: “The UK exports only around 2,000 tonnes to Russia so it is not a big market. There will be further negotiations on the matter. Russia is reliant on European suppliers, we will just have to wait and see what happens.”