An application to allow the resumption of British seed potato exports to Europe has been rejected by the European Commission.
The UK Government had applied to the European Commission seeking a solution to the Brexit trade deal not including third-country equivalence for seed potatoes.
This is the tool whereby the European Commission decides whether a non-EU country’s regulatory, supervisory and enforcement regime is equivalent to its own.
Failure to secure the equivalence status put an end to all GB seed potato exports to Northern Ireland and Europe from January 1 this year.
Industry estimates suggest the trade is worth around £10 million a year, with a combined volume of about 22,000 tonnes exported annually.
A UK Government spokesman confirmed the application had been declined.
He said: “We are disappointed with the European Commission’s decision to not progress our case for seed potato equivalence.
“The Environment Secretary will continue to raise this issue with them and challenge their decision, to ensure this vital trade continues at the earliest opportunity.”
Patrick Hughes, head of export trade development for potatoes at levy body AHDB, said the news was “very disappointing” for the seed potato sector.
He said: “I suspect this issue is now likely to run on and on for a number of months leading to the remaining exports destined for the EU not reaching their final destination in time for planting.
“And neither does it provide UK growers with any certainty when making planting decisions.”
Andrew Skea from specialist seed potato company Skea Organics, based near Dundee, said the news was disappointing and would leave growers in the dark about what to plant for the season ahead.
He said: “Growers will have to be looking at what varieties were destined for the European market and decide whether it’s worth taking a risk to grow them or whether they should grow a bit more for the English market.”