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New €3m Irish seed potato growing scheme threatens Scottish seed potato growers, says Gordon MP Richard Thomson

By Lewis McBlane

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A NEW Irish seed potato fund could threaten Scottish exports to the country, Gordon MP Richard Thomson has warned.

Richard Thomson has contacted the UK Government to highlight concerns raised by seed potato growers.
Richard Thomson has contacted the UK Government to highlight concerns raised by seed potato growers.

A €3 million scheme designed to boost domestic seed production in Ireland could risk future seed potato trade across the Irish Sea.

Currently, seed potato exports from Scotland to the EU are not permitted due to the 2020 Brexit agreement failing to agree safety regulations for the product.

The new Irish scheme aims to boost production of domestic seed potatoes, which could reduce demand for Scottish seed potatoes even if exports resume.

Announcing the details of the scheme, Irish Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said: “This presents a timely opportunity for the Irish seed potato sector to develop capacity and expand to ensure a reliable supply of domestically produced high grade seed potato material.

“There is great potential in reviving the domestic seed potato sector."

Gordon MP Richard Thomson has written to DEFRA Farming Minister Victoria Prentis to say time is running out for Scottish seed potato growers.

He said: “We were told there would be huge benefits to agriculture from Brexit.

"In this case, the benefits are entirely flowing to seed potato growers in Ireland as their government recognises a Brexit opportunity and has stepped-up to inject a €3million boost to their own farmers and growers.

“This is an entirely predictable response from the Irish Government – and one which is no more than you would expect from a government which takes farming seriously and recognises an opportunity to benefit its farmers when it sees it.

“The difficulty is that this UK Government has taken its eye off the ball.

"It was already distracted by the poor behaviour of its Prime Minister and is now consumed with the contest to see who will succeed him.

"I have again written to DEFRA on the subject and stated in my letter to Farming Minister Victoria Prentis that the clock is ticking and if action is not taken soon then there may be no going back to established markets such as Ireland because they will have developed their own domestic capacity.”

The letter from Mr Thomson comes as trade body the Seed Potato Organisation (SPO) are set to meet at the annual Potatoes in Practice trade event on August 11, to organise an industry response to this and similar issues.

Aberdeenshire grower Colin Massie, who sits on the SPO steering committee said: “If seed growers don’t pull together to advance their own interests, then who else will?”

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