While politicians talk, the realities of Brexit are biting hard on the Scottish seed potato sector.
The difficulties of leaving the EU right in the middle of the export season have been flagged up for months, but now it is a clear and present issue.
This week, Brechin-based company AJ Allan, part of the IPM Potato Group, has been grading the variety Cara for export to Malta and Galactica for export to Egypt.
During coming weeks, the business will be consigning high grade seed of 15 varieties to 10 countries, including some in the EU, but like everyone else in the sector, IPM manager David Chalmers has no idea what will happen after October 31.
Mr Chalmers said: “My immediate concern is over labelling. At the moment we are using EU labels, which are essentially plant passports, but we may have to move quickly to UK labels after October 31 and I am not sure how that will work.”
IPM’s concerns could be assuaged somewhat if the Prime Minister manages to secure a withdrawal deal with an implementation period ending in December 2020, which as Farmers Guardian went to print, appeared more likely than it has in recent weeks.
But the need to reach an agreement is even more pressing for Andrew Skea, of Skea Organics, near Dundee. About 40 per cent of his production is sold to EU countries.
In the event of a no-deal, these exports would immediately be banned on phytosanitary grounds, because the UK would become a ‘third country’.
He said: “Specialist seed which is worth £800 per tonne would become stock feed worth £20/t in an instant.
“I admit I am not sleeping as well as I should be. People say there are other markets, but believe me we are selling in every country we can.”
Mairi Gougeon MSP and Rural Affairs Minister was in Brechin on October 16 to see the situation for herself.
She said: “Scotland exports 20,000t of seed to the EU and 40,000t to Egypt.
“With just two weeks to go until a potential no-deal, we need to know how we are to continue to access lucrative third world markets.”