Farming unions have suggested that if the European Union does not recognise third country status to allow the export of British-grown seed potatoes to the bloc, then the UK should consider a reciprocal ban on European-grown seed entering the country.
Despite the fact that Europe has historically seen Scotland as one of the cleanest areas of seed potato production, the EU denied third country status for GB seed potatoes over concerns they would not remain “dynamically aligned” with the bloc’s standards. The decision has also prevented the movement of Scottish seed potatoes to Northern Ireland.
At the moment, until 30 June 2021, seed imports from the EU to Britain are still allowed, but with Scottish seed potato exports typically worth some £4.5 million a year, there are calls to prevent the 28,000t of European imports. NFU president Minette Batters said, “There is no point in us not taking a hard line on this. We could get to a level of self-sufficiency within our own internal market. I think growers, on the whole, would be happy with us taking quite a hard line on this, with seed potatoes being imported if we have lost access to the EU market.”
Outgoing NFUS president Andrew McCornick warned the agreement with the EU would prevent action on seed potato imports before the end of June, but added, “But beyond that, totally slam the door unless we can get some kind of agreement… there is no way Europe could argue their standards are higher than ours.”