Scotland produces 80% of the UK’s seed potatoes. It’s an excellent industry with many years of expertise producing a quality product where 13.5% of its sales are to the EU.
This week Mairi Gougeon, Rural Affairs Minister in the Scottish Government wrote to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the UK Government over her concerns should there be a no deal Brexit.
Mairi Gougeon said:
“As you will no doubt be aware, seed potatoes from Scotland are world renowned for their high health status: they are of premium quality and are a successful and important part of the Scottish rural economy.
“We have protected this status by a notification system for imports to Scotland, with our industry voluntarily sourcing all seed potatoes from our domestic supply chain.
“Scotland currently exports 13.5% of our marketed tonnage of seed potatoes to the EU, generating valuable income for our rural economy.
“On leaving the EU, the UK must seek third country equivalence status to be able to continue to export our seed potatoes to the European market.”
The Orkney News covered this issue here: How to Prepare if the UK Leaves the EU with No Deal: Farming
The UK Government’s own technical notes should there be a no deal Brexit state:
“Varieties registered solely via UK National Listing would no longer be listed on the EU Common Catalogue and would not be marketable in the EU. UK certified seed and propagating material and UK DUS testing of plant varieties would no longer be accepted in the EU.”
The UK will be a Third Country when it leaves the EU.
“In the event of a no deal, the UK would apply to the EU to recognise its certification processes as equivalent, but we cannot guarantee this recognition would be in place at the point the UK leaves the EU. Approval can take a minimum of 12 months so we are exploring approaches to speed up this process.”
Mairi Gougeon said:
“It is now, at this late stage, unlikely that Defra will be able to secure third country equivalence status for seed potatoes in time for the 30 March 2019.”
This means that seed potatoes from Scotland will lose their EU market – they will not be allowed to sell their products in the EU as they did before. They will have to rely on sales within the UK to make up this loss. BUT to make matters worse EU countries will be able to export their seed potatoes without hindrance onto the UK market.
In her letter to Michael Gove, Mairi Gougeon has asked him to reconsider permitting the free flow of EU seed potatoes into the UK to avert the potential devastating effects to this successful industry.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame