Seed potato trade stilled by weather but ready to build on past successes

Although the trade has come to a complete standstill with the severe weather in the past week, the Scottish seed potato export business has started, with increased business to Egypt, one of the main export markets.

Robert Doig chairman of the seed and export committee of the Potato Council, said that trade with Egypt was up by 32 per cent on the previous year: "The yield from these seeds will be primarily used for consumption in Egypt, but some are re-exported as ware to the EU and increasingly to countries like Russia."

Doig's comments came during a visit by Scottish Government cabinet secretary for rural affairs and the environment Richard Lochhead to his grading unit at Glenfarg, Perthshire.

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Along with his colleague, Gordon Smillie of Caithness Potatoes, and Potato Council head of seed and export, Mark Prentice, Doig pointed out that the seed potato industry is becoming increasingly important to the Scottish economy.

"Increasing numbers of ware buyers overseas appreciate the health benefits of the maritime Scottish climate for producing seed potatoes. This has contributed to an overall increase in exports of 30 per cent over the past ten years."

Doig and Smillie discussed the protection of Scotland's high plant health status with the minister and among the hot topics was the importance of keeping the bacterial disease dickeya out of Scotland.

"The sector really values the advisory services offered by the dedicated potato teams at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture and the Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate," said Doig.

"It is vital that both the industry and government-supported services work together to capitalise on the opportunities in export markets."

Prentice added the Scottish Government and the Potato Council are currently funding 500,000 worth of research into dickeya.