Brexit: Scottish minister pledges to fight for seed potato exporters

Scotland's rural economy minister has pledged to do “everything possible” to reverse the “damaging impact” of the UK’s trade deal with the EU on seed potato farmers.

The Scottish Government has said the seed potato industry is facing disaster through the Brexit deal.
The Scottish Government has said the seed potato industry is facing disaster through the Brexit deal.

Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing has revealed he is already in talks with the UK Government’s Secretary of State for the Environment and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, to find a solution to the new export ban on the crop to the EU and Northern Ireland.

Seed potatoes were worth £113 million to UK farmers in the year to last June, with around 100,000 tonnes sold abroad. Sales to the EU from Scotland are around 22,000 tonnes per year.

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However, Egypt is a bigger customer, importing between 30,000 and 40,000 tonnes, followed by Morocco, Israel and Thailand.

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From Friday, seed potatoes will be banned from being exported to the EU, which could have an estimated £15m impact on the sector in which Scotland accounts for three-quarters of the UK's 280 growers.

Mr Ewing said he held talks with industry leaders this Monday and an urgent meeting with Mr Eustice.

He said: “I am extremely disappointed and concerned at the impact the loss of the European Union and Northern Ireland markets will have on the Scottish seed potato industry.

"Scotland did not vote to leave the EU but here we have another example of where the impact will disproportionately affect Scottish businesses.

“Scottish seed potatoes are highly regarded internationally and account for 75 per cent of UK production and 80 per cent of exports. The UK Government has been singularly unsuccessful in making the case for our interests and I am concerned that the existence of Scottish growers reliant on supplying customers in the EU and NI is being put at risk.

“We will not rest on this issue until every possible option has been explored. I met with industry leaders this week to hear their grave concerns, and expect the UK Government to make every effort, alongside the Scottish Government, to ensure our Scottish potato producers do not suffer from the damaging consequences of our exit from the EU.”

The EU will allow almost all other food and plant exports from Great Britain to continue after Brexit transition ends.

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