SCOTLAND’S world renowned seed potato industry risks losing its 13.5% EU market share if a 'no deal' Brexit goes ahead.

Scottish Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon this week wrote to Defra Secretary of State Michael Gove to highlight the threat to this premium farm export posed by the replacement of full single market access rights with 'third country' status.

Conversely, Ms Gougeon noted that the ware potato industry, which is of particular importance to other parts of the UK, had been given Defra's go-ahead to keep importing seed potatoes from the EU for one year following exit day, setting up a 'one-way trading relationship' that would specifically disadvantage Scottish seed potato growers.

"In yet another example of this UK Government’s damaging approach to exiting the EU, I am concerned to learn from my officials that you have now made a decision regarding seed potato imports which will fail to protect Scotland’s world class industry," wrote Ms Gougeon.

"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."

But at this late stage in negotiations, she said it was now unlikely that Defra would be able to secure third country equivalence status for seed potatoes in time for the March 30, 2019, exit date.

"We now find ourselves in a situation where the EU will no longer allow imports of seed potatoes from the UK, but the UK will continue to allow imports of seed potatoes from the EU for an interim period," said Ms Gougeon.

"I struggle to understand why you have made the decision to unilaterally allow continued EU imports of seed potatoes during a one year period, which will cover two growing seasons, rather than put in place necessary and reasonable measures to absorb within the UK the excess production which can no longer access a European market.

"As more than 80% of seed potatoes in the UK are of Scottish origin, it is a real concern that the loss for producers, who rely in part on the European market, could have an impact on our domestic supply," she stressed. "This would be a cost paid further down the potato production chain and ultimately by consumers. It could reduce our critical mass and potentially close the door to further overseas opportunities at a time where we have been opening doors to countries such as China.

"In a year such as this where potato production across the EU struggled with this summer’s temperatures but Scotland’s production remained strong, it is in all of our interests to protect our seed potato industry," she added.