NFU Scotland’s (NFUS) vice-president Andrew Connon has welcomed the resumption of seed potato trade with Northern Ireland from the end of this month but he said the union is still lobbying for trade to the rest of Europe.
Mr Connon’s message comes after it has been confirmed that trade seed potatoes between Scotland and Northern Ireland will re-open on September 30 after the valuable trade was cut overnight due to Brexit.
Prior to Brexit, Scotland sold an estimated 22,000 tonnes of seed potatoes to European customers.
Mr Connon, who farms near Ellon in Aberdeenshire, said: “Brexit and the Northern Ireland agreement brought significant and costly disruption to long-established trading arrangements between Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Seed potato trade between Scotland and Northern Ireland to re-open on September 30
“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.”
While trade across the water is re-opening, sales of seed potatoes to Europe remain blocked since Brexit.
NFUS is now calling on the UK Government to re-double its efforts to resolve this, 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.
“With trade in seed potatoes to the rest of Europe still denied, we continue to lobby both UK Government and the EU to re-establish this hugely important trade link,” added Mr Connon.
Seed potato trade between the EU and GB must be reciprocal says union
“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 high health Scottish seed potatoes.”
Mr Connon said 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,” he said.