Farming: Clock is ticking for Scottish seed potato exports

The “clock is ticking” for Scottish seed potato exports following the Irish Government’s decision to bankroll a €3million scheme intended to ramp up production of their own seed in a bid to capitalise on the ban on imports from Scotland, the UK Government has been warned.

Richard Thomson MP
Richard Thomson MP

The warning was delivered to UK farming minister, Victoria Prentice by North-east MP, Richard Thomson against the backdrop of the continued exclusion of Scottish seed from EU markets following the Brexit deal which, under the Northern Ireland protocol, includes a ban on exports to the traditional market of Northern Ireland.

“We were told there would be huge benefits to agriculture from Brexit,” said Thomson.

“In this case, the benefits are entirely flowing to seed potato growers in Ireland as their government recognises a Brexit opportunity and has stepped-up to inject a €3million boost to their own farmers and growers.”

He said the move was an entirely predictable response from the Irish Government and highlighted the fact that it took farming seriously and recognised an opportunity to benefit its farmers when it saw it.

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“The difficulty is that this UK Government has taken its eye off the ball,” added Thomson.

“It was already distracted by the poor behaviour of its Prime Minister and is now consumed with the contest to see who will succeed him.

"I have again written to Defra on the subject and stated in my letter to farming minister Victoria Prentis that the clock is ticking and if action is not taken soon then there may be no going back to established markets such as Ireland because they will have developed their own domestic capacity.”

Announcing the details of the scheme, Irish minister for agriculture Charlie McConalogue said that the move presented a timely opportunity for the Irish seed potato sector to develop capacity and expand to ensure a reliable supply of domestically produced high grade seed potato material.

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The scheme will accelerate development of capacity within the sector and aid improvements in the production, storage and marketing infrastructure of seed potatoes by providing grant assistance to producers towards the capital cost of specialized equipment and facilities.

Utilising funding under Ireland’s allocation from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund (BAR). McConalogue said the scheme presented an opportunity for the Irish seed potato sector to develop capacity and expand to ensure a reliable supply of domestically produced high grade seed potatoes.

He said that there was great potential in reviving the domestic seed potato sector which had all but died in the face of competition from Scottish seed.

“I am committed to seeing it thrive once more once there is leadership from within the sector too. I believe we can restore the industry to its heyday nationally."

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Senator Pippa Hackett, minister of state for land use, said the scheme would contribute to shorter supply chains and sector sustainability in a domestic industry, which was synonymous with the country and pointed out that Ireland was the only EU member state designated a high health status under EU legislation for the growing of seed potatoes.

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