Scotland’s seed potato industry 'risks losing' major EU market share

More than 80% of seed potatoes in the UK are of Scottish origin
More than 80% of seed potatoes in the UK are of Scottish origin

Scotland’s world renowned seed potato industry risks losing its 13.5% EU market share in a no deal Brexit scenario, the Scottish Government has warned.

In a letter to Secretary of State Michael Gove, Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon highlights that in this scenario Scotland would become a third country and would therefore be unable to export seed potatoes to the EU.

But the ware potato and processing industry, which is of particular importance to other parts of the UK, could continue to import seed potatoes from the EU for one year following exit day.

Such an outcome would represent a 'significant loss' to this industry, particularly as the UK has the potential to be self-sufficient in seed potatoes.

And by allowing a one-way trading relationship that disadvantages Scottish seed potato growers, there would be little incentive to fill the internal UK market demand through the sourcing of Scottish seed potatoes, Ms Gougeon says.

Scotland currently exports 13.5% of its marketed tonnage of seed potatoes to the EU, generating valuable income for the rural economy.

On leaving the EU, the UK must seek third country equivalence status to be able to continue to export seed potatoes to the European market.

It is now, at this late stage, unlikely that Defra will be able to secure third country equivalence status for seed potatoes in time for the 30 March 2019, Ms Gougeon says.

“There is the potential to mitigate the risk of this loss in the immediate aftermath of a disorderly exit by encouraging a greater UK market, where domestic importers would no longer be able to import from the EU. That is something the UK Government could choose to make happen,” her letter to Mr Gove states.

“We now find ourselves in a situation where the EU will no longer allow imports of seed potatoes from the UK, but the UK will continue to allow imports of seed potatoes from the EU for an interim period.

She adds: “I struggle to understand why you have made the decision to unilaterally allow continued EU imports of seed potatoes during a one year period, which will cover two growing seasons, rather than put in place necessary and reasonable measures to absorb within the UK the excess production which can no longer access a European market.”