Brexit devastates seed potato exports

Defra is being asked to re-engage with the EU on seed potato exports, with the aim of establishing reciprocal trade in seed between the EU and the UK.

Seed potato sales to the EU provide a crucial part of their business of many UK seed growers and are represented by The Pre Basic Growers Association, who have written a letter to Defra.

Seed exports from the UK to the EU were prohibited by the EU following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, though seed imports from the EU to the UK continue until June 2021. A request for equivalence in respect of seed potato imports, which would have allowed trade in seed in both directions, was turned down by the EU in January.

The Association is pressing for the prohibition of seed potato imports from the EU by 1 July if reciprocal trading cannot be agreed.

Annual exports of seed potatoes from the UK to the EU have been up to 30,000 tonnes in recent years, with a value of around £13 million. With the potential loss of the EU market growers stand to lose a significant part of their income and the sustainability of some businesses is under threat.

The Association is of the view that any shortfall in seed due to a prohibition on imports into the UK can be offset by UK seed production. Seed imports from the EU are annually around 28,000 tonnes.

Association member and exporter Andrew Skea of breeders Skea Organics says: “Our export markets have been built up over many years and growers face a significant loss of business which would be very difficult to retrieve – for some the future of their businesses is at stake.”

The Pre Basic Growers Association comprises more than 40 seed potato growers (mostly in Scotland) who produce the early generations of high grade seed potatoes (pre basic seed). The aim of the Association is to maintain the highest standards of seed potato production and its members underpin the UK’s seed potato industry.

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