The ability to trade seed potatoes between Scotland and Northern Ireland will re-open on 30 September.

Brexit saw the valuable trade in Scottish seed potatoes to all European markets, including Northern Ireland, lost overnight. Pre-Brexit, Scotland sold an estimated 22,000 tonnes of seed potatoes to European customers.

A benefit of the Windsor Framework, ratified by the UK and the EU in March 2023, was the opening of ‘green channels’ that would allow the resumption of trade in some goods, including seed potatoes. Pre-Brexit, Scotland sold an estimated 2500 tonnes of seed potatoes into Northern Ireland.

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While trade with Northern Ireland is re-opening, sales of seed potatoes to Europe remain blocked since Brexit. The Union is calling on the UK Government to re-double its efforts to resolve this impasse, recognising that there is significant intransigence at an EU level to seek a resolution. It strongly believes that any seed potato trade between the EU and GB must be reciprocal.

NFU Scotland vice president Andrew Connon, said: “Brexit and the Northern Ireland agreement brought significant and costly disruption to long-established trading arrangements between Scotland and Northern Ireland. It took three years of lobbying, but the Windsor Framework agreement and the introduction of ‘green’ channels for goods traded between Scotland and Northern Ireland saw sales of seed potatoes specifically recognised in the text of the agreement.

“That was a significant breakthrough and 30 September marks the reopening of the Northern Irish market for our high health stock. It creates the opportunity for our growers to re-establish links with the Northern Irish potato industry where we are confident our Scottish seed potatoes will be in demand, albeit trade should never have been a casualty of Brexit in the first place.

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“With trade in seed potatoes to the rest of Europe still denied, we continue to lobby both the UK Government and the EU to re-establish this hugely important trade link. The complete, overnight loss of the European market for Scottish seed was a very damaging post-Brexit consequence.

“It is widely known that potato stocks in Europe are now under threat due to plant disease pressures and it is time that the EU Commission listened to its member states who are desperately in need of fresh health Scottish seed potatoes.

“The lack of availability to high health seed potatoes to grow healthy crops, compounded by some extreme weather, is having an impact on potato supplies and availability across Europe.

“Common sense and commercial reality need to prevail over political gamesmanship.”