Protecting our seed potato interests

IF EVER there was a sign that our UK government does not give a fig about agriculture, then it was surely this week when it admitted that it was not pressing too hard for the once significant Scottish seed potato trade to get once more into the European market.

It was said at the time that when our seed spuds were allowed to be part of the Brexit barter – and not in a good way for us – that it would only be a matter of ticking a few boxes on aligning our phytosanitary rules with those of the rest of Europe and 'Bingo', we'd be back selling our wares to European counterparts who had, up to that point, valued the greater health status of Scottish seed.

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Not so. There has been no political push, nor desire it would seem to look after the interests of what had been a hard-won market. In fact, to all intents and purposes the opposite has happened and our own government has actually pointed some of our English customers to look at bringing in seed from the continent.

The indication that this could also include 'small ware potatoes' is worrying indeed. Not only is government not interested in representing our interests, but it is actively encouraging imports of what must be viewed as an inferior product. A disease outbreak would seem inevitable!

There's no business like show business

There's barely been a need to batten down the hatches at any of this year's shows (so far, and not wanting to tempt fate!) as the weather, for once, has been smiling down on events up and down the country.

But what has been evident has been a slow down in entries almost across the board, from the biggest – our famous Royal Highland – to the smallest. Could it be that the Cost of Farming Crisis is beginning to hit home?

Many shows have relied on some far-travelled exhibitors to maintain numbers and competition. But with fuel 50% more expensive than it was at this time last year, that has become a major consideration as has the expense of taking time away from home given the labour shortage across many areas of the industry.

Maybe it is time to get used to the fact that the general public need to be encouraged to come along to ag shows to help preserve and maintain their many merits. Turriff Show, this week, was blessed with fine weather throughout, but the main 'public' day outshone the main farming day by a considerable margin, even though there was the added hook of having a Royal visitor on the main judging day for farm livestock.

Most traditional shows are on a Saturday, so can get that mix of town and country, but there has to be some fears for those shows that do not bridge the weekend gap. Everyone seems, though, just glad to be back into the show calendar routine. What is a scary prospect, though, is how many events will fare in 2023 – especially if the weather does not play ball.