Planting seeds of doubt on farm

Scottish potato growers are facing some tough decisions on what to plant over the coming weeks, with huge uncertainties still haunting both the seed and ware sectors.

Despite the continuation of discussions between the UK and the EU on equivalence measures for seed potatoes, industry sources now believe that any deal to allow Scottish seed into Europe in the short term is ‘very unlikely’.

Head of potato export trade development with the AHDB, Patrick Hughes who has been working with Scottish and UK governments to supply evidence to those in negotiations this week agreed that the situation left the sector “facing difficult decisions” around their planting arrangements for 2021:

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“Seed potatoes specifically scheduled for EU export will either not be planted or will be significantly reduced and a greater emphasis placed on supplying the domestic or alternative international markets,” said Hughes.

But, the ware sector also has its worries to face, with huge uncertainties on the demand front going forward.

And with almost half of the entire Scottish potato crop still in grower-held stores at the end of January, there has been a slump in prices in recent weeks.

Growers’ decisions on what to plant over the next few weeks are likely to be based on a view of what market conditions might be from late summer onwards – and while there have been signs of increased retails sales, the fate of the hospitality sector which accounts for a considerable proportion of sales remains heavily reliant on government decisions on Covid restrictions.