SCOTTISH GROWERS have welcomed Defra’s decision to implement a reciprocal ban on EU imports of seed potatoes.

EU seed potatoes are now banned from entering Great Britain, after having been granted a six-month passage by the UK Government, when talks between both sides failed to agree on equivalence post-Brexit.

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement with Europe, announced at the end of 2020, failed to agree equivalence, resulting in significant prohibitions on Scottish seed exports to the EU and, by extension, Northern Ireland. Scotland’s national Farming Union (NFUS) stated that the consequence for growers was ‘immediate and grave’.

As a member of the EU, Britain exported around 30,000 tonnes of seed potatoes, worth £13.5m, to mainland Europe each year and the majority of these were high-health stocks grown in Scotland.

Scottish growers warned that if Defra had agreed to grant a further six-month extension to allow imports to continue, the move could have had the potential to “devastate” Scotland’s seed potato industry.

Specialist Scottish seed grower Andrew Skea – who formerly exported a considerable amount of seed to Europe – welcomed Defra’s decision but recognised it would create difficulties for English growers trying to access preferred varieties.

However, he pointed out that alternative varieties of seed were available from Scotland.

The UK Government has previously applied for equivalence on seed potatoes, and this application has been rejected. NFUS hopes the decision taken by the UK Government not to extend authorisation to EU seed imports will bring fresh impetus to talks that will agree equivalence and allow Scottish seed potato exports to resume.

Chair of NFU Scotland’s Potatoes Working Group, Mike Wilson, said: “We are delighted that the principle of seed potato trade between the EU and GB having to go ‘both ways or no-ways’ has been upheld by Defra.

“Extending the authorisation for a further six months had the potential to devastate Scotland’s seed potato industry, impacting many of our members’ businesses and Scotland’s rural economy. We welcome that the UK Government’s allowance for EU seed potatoes to be sold to GB has now officially been ended,” said Mr Wilson who is a seed potato grower at Auchnagatt, Ellon.

“This means that potato growers throughout Britain will have to source their seed from within Britain, which is good news for Scotland’s seed potato sector.

“The GB market is quite different from the EU market, so the potato sector has quite a task on its hands to develop and supply this internal market.

“In the meantime, NFUS will be working with Government and our European counterparts to regain access to the EU market. This will not be an easy task as the EU Commission has made it very clear on several occasions that the seed potato trade is a casualty of Brexit.”