NEW ACCORDS have been struck between Scotland and Brazil over its import requirements for seed potatoes, setting the scene for "a significant increase" in the tonnage of UK seed heading to the South American country.

Brazil produces around 3.6million tonnes of potatoes a year according to UN figures, but in terms of productivity, its yields are only two thirds of what is achieved by UK growers.

High quality UK seed could help increase those yields, which is why the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board organised a 'game-changing' meeting between representatives from both countries to thrash out new, simpler export/import protoicols. The two are now scheduled to meet again in January to finalise discussions on removing the requirement for disease testing on GB seed potatoes entering Brazil.

AHDB's head of Crops Export Market Development, Rob Burns said: “British seed potatoes are rightly renowned across the world. Not only for high health and high quality, but also for diversity – we have a great range of varieties which thrive in a range of conditions, be it damper cooler climates such as the UK, or warmer environments.”

AHDB has also played a part in building trust among growers in the countries that have agreed bilateral agreements with the Scottish government. One example is recent official seed trials in Kenya conducted with Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture.

Ten varieties have been sent to Kenya for trialling, including four free varieties – Atlantic, Cara, Hermes and Russet Burbank – and six commercial varieties provided by the James Hutton Institute. All are processing varieties that are expected to thrive in hot, dry conditions.

Most farmers in Kenya use poor quality home saved seed, which yields as little as ten tonnes of potatoes per hectare. The GB seed currently being trialled will not only be healthier but should produce 40–50 tonnes of potatoes per hectare.

SASA’s Export Liaison Officer, Jackie Gibson, reported that the GB seed planted in Kenya is healthy and growing well. “We sent more than 1200 tubers per variety, 400 of which underwent laboratory testing for soft rots; they passed with flying colours," she said. "The Syngenta Foundation have been a great partner, helping us identify farms to work with and 400 tubers per variety were planted on three farms in late April/early May."

AHDB’s Exports team will have engaged with nine countries via inward and outward trade missions and fact-finding visits by the end of the year April 2017 to March 2018, in work intended to help British exporters find new opportunities.