Cereal and grass seeds also facing EU restrictions

It was revealed this week that the UK government hopes to find a solution to the ban on exporting seed potatoes to the EU and Northern Ireland, but it has become apparent that both cereal seed and grass seed are subject to the same restrictions.

And although seed of these major crop types have not received third country recognition by the EU, due to the UK Government’s unwillingness to agree to dynamic alignment with European regulations, seed produced on the continent will still be allowed to enter the UK.

The trade in seed potatoes to Europe has been valued as worth about £13.5 million to the Scottish economy – but while the trade in cereal and grass seed to the continent only tends to be a major issue if their own seedstocks have been harmed by bad weather, there is an annual trade of around 2,000 of cereal seed heading for Northern Ireland which will also be affected under the terms of the NI Protocol.

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Addressing the seed potato issue earlier this week, Defra Secretary, George Eustice said that the government was already working with the EU to gain the required recognition of ‘equivalence’ to see the trade in Scottish seed re-opened:

“There is no scientific reason whatsoever to put restrictions on the sale of seed potatoes grown in Scotland and the rest of GB being sold into the EU.

“Scottish seed potatoes are widely recognised as having the highest health standards on the globe, so there is absolutely no justification for the move. But for reasons which were concerned with the negotiations on the trade deal, the EU said it was unwilling to grant access unless we aligned with their standards.

“We believe it will still be possible to gain recognition of the quality which is on offer – but it was only possible to seek equivalence after the transition period had ended.

He said that the UK had now taken that step, adding that all the data and the information required to support the application had been filed – and called on the EU to expedite its deliberations on the issue:

“In the past Canada has gained access to the EU for its seed potatoes, so with our own high standards it should certainly be possible.”

Commenting on the decision not to put in place a reciprocal ban on seed coming into the UK from the EU, he said that a judgement had been taken that for this year that it would create less disruption to UK farmers to allow seed imports to continue.

However growers in Scotland have warned that the UK will have to “play hard ball” in order to regain access to Europe – and have called for a reciprocal ban to be put in place later this year:

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“The growers’ choice is by far and away to have exports allowed both ways – but what absolutely cannot be swallowed is allowing potato seed into the UK from the EU when none is allowed the other way,” said one leading grower.