A last-minute deal with the European Union has seen the UK granted ‘third country’ listed status for the export of many food and plant products, including ware potatoes, which would otherwise have been prohibited even with a Brexit trade deal. However, the regulations do not include seed potatoes, leaving Scottish ad English producers without access to a number of their traditional export markets.
A letter to the industry from Defra confirmed, ‘Unfortunately the EU have confirmed they will not accept our case for a permanent change to the prohibition on seed potatoes… on the grounds that there is no agreement for GB to be dynamically aligned with EU rules.’
The NFU in England described the moves as a “critical step forward,” but Scottish government rural spokesman Fergus Ewing said it would be “disastrous” for the Scottish seed potato industry.
The EU currently accounts for around one fifth of the UK’s seed potato exports (around 20,000 tonnes a year). Cygnet PEP, director Sandy McGowan, said that the sector had been prepared for this outcome: “We’re trying to have some form of assurance from the devolved governments that we aren’t going to move away from [equivalence] in the short term that would allow us to keep trading for the rest of this potato season. But I think realistically I can’t see that happening in time to make much of a difference.”