13.5 per cent of seed exports go to the EU
Seed potato production will be operating under new rules after March 29 whatever kind of Brexit deal is reached.
Speaking at the AHDB Potato Conference last week (November 15), Scotland’s Chief plant health officer Gerry Saddler said UK growers would no longer be able to access the EU Common Catalogue and any varieties they wish to grow would need to be on the UK National List.
But this was more than a minor inconvenience because about one third of the most commonly grown varieties in the UK were included in the EU Common Catalogue but not on the National List.
In all, 413 varieties had been transferred onto the National List before a deadline set at the end of last week.
Professor Saddler, who is also head of SASA, the government body in charge of seed potato regulations, pointed to the fact UK grown and certified seed would no longer be able to be exported to the EU which was a ‘closed shop’.
Only Switzerland could legally export seed to the EU and only then under stringent conditions.
“The UK will in effect be a third country. At the moment about 13.5 per cent or 31,000 tonnes of our seed exports goes to the EU and that trade will effectively stop,” he said.
However, there was uncertainty as to whether the restrictions would work in the other direction with English growers, packers, processors and retailers lobbying for a continuation of imports from the EU for a transitional period.
Prof Saddler did however point to an opportunity. Imports, which mostly come from the Netherlands amount to about 31,000 tonnes which neatly equates to the tonnage which will be lost when Scottish exports to the EU stop.
“Scotland could actually grow all the seed required in the UK,” he said.
It does however mean Scottish seed growers would need to re-direct their marketing and change the varieties grown.