Brexit: Scottish Authorities Fight for Seed Potato Exporters
Scotland’s rural economy minister has pledged to do “everything possible” to reverse the “damaging impact” of the UK’s trade deal with the EU on seed potato farmers. Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing has revealed he is already in talks with the UK Government’s Secretary of State for the Environment and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, to find a solution to the new export ban on the crop to the EU and Northern Ireland.
Seed potatoes were worth GBP113m to UK farmers in the year to last June, with around 100,000 tons sold abroad. Sales to the EU from Scotland are around 22,000 tons per year.
At the same time, Egypt, which is a bigger customer than the EU, is having serious market problems due to a sharp decrease in wholesale prices for potatoes over the past week. Egyptian farmers are being driven to abandon their own crops due to lockdown polices from importing countries harming the Egyptian product, saturating the local market and causing low demand.
The ban on seed potatoes exports to the EU could have an estimated GBP15m impact on the sector, in which Scotland accounts for three-quarters of the UK’s 280 growers. Ewing said: “I am extremely disappointed and concerned at the impact the loss of the European Union and Northern Ireland markets will have on the Scottish seed potato industry. Scottish seed potatoes are highly regarded internationally and account for 75% of UK production and 80% of exports. The UK Government has been singularly unsuccessful in making the case for our interests and I am concerned that the existence of Scottish growers reliant on supplying customers in the EU and NI is being put at risk.
Under the current agreement, the EU will allow almost all other food and plant exports from Great Britain to continue after Brexit transition ends.