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Brexit fightback: UK bans EU seed potato imports in snub at Brussels

Defra have restricted the import of seed potatoes from the EU (Courtesy: PA)

The Department for Food, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) restricted the imports of seed potatoes from the European Union after deciding not to renew a six-month authorisation. The six-month grace period had allowed imports from European Countries since the end of the Brexit transition period on January 1.

But Ministers will now consider applications to market imported seed potatoes from the bloc on a case-by-case basis following an industry-wide consultation. It comes after the European Union refused repeated requests by UK ministers to authorise the export of seed potatoes from Britain since January 1, 2021.

Brussels has banned the export of seed spuds from Great Britain to the EU since 31 December 2020 after the Trade and Cooperation Agreement failed to agree equivalence on the goods.

A Defra spokesperson:
 
"This approach recognises the fact that the UK is broadly self-sufficient in the total quantity of seed potato production, while retaining a mechanism to consider future marketing authorisations as necessary."

"We also continue to press the EU to reconsider its position, in line with its own regulations, on the import of seed potatoes from Great Britain to the EU."
Up to 10,000 tonnes of seed potatoes are imported annually from the EU for planting on British farms. However, the UK exports about 30,000 tonnes to EU countries, worth £13.5m, the majority of which come from Scotland.

Scottish farming chiefs welcomed the news and claimed any extension to the grace period had the potential to "devastate" the industry.

Mike Wilson, chair of National Farmers Union Scotland’s Potatoes working group:
 
"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. 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, NFU Scotland will be working with the 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."
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