There is mounting concern amongst UK carrot growers that the government is dragging its heels over granting emergency authorisation for the use of neonicotinoid seed treatment for the crop.

An application has been considered by the Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP) and is now awaiting a decision by ministers, but Ian Holmes, R and D chairman of umbrella body, the British Carrot Growers Association, said many crops face disaster if the treatment is not allowed soon.

He said: “There is real concern in the industry because this seed treatment is the most effective way we have to control early aphid-transmitted viruses and foliar applied products do not provide the same activity. We have had an Extension of Authorisation for Minor Use (EAMU) within the UK for several seasons and this has helped keep a lid on virus infection in crops. If we don’t get approval soon, it could be disastrous.

“Coming on the back of one of the most difficult growing seasons in living memory, this would be a real blow to British carrot growers at a time when we need all the UK-grown fresh produce we can get,” he pointed out.

“Furthermore, news that growers in Belgium have recently received emergency authorisation for the same product means that the UK carrot growing industry will be at a significant competitive disadvantage to our European counterparts.

“We are not asking for an indefinite approval, but need the next couple of years to find new solutions to this problem. However, without neonic seed treatment in the short term, the industry could face real issues with crop quality and yield.”

The main treatment that growers want to have a temporary licence for is Syngenta’s Cruiser 70WS, a cornerstone of the British carrot growing industry.