Seed potato trade to resume between Scotland and NI
20th September 2023
NFU Scotland welcomed the news, but warned the UK government must double its efforts to unlock the damaging post-Brexit loss of trade with the rest of the EU.
The ability to trade seed potatoes between Scotland and Northern Ireland will re-open on 30th September.
Brexit resulted in the loss of the valuable trade in Scottish seed potatoes to all European markets, including Northern Ireland, overnight.
Pre-Brexit, Scotland sold an estimated 22,000 tonnes of seed potatoes to European customers, including 2,500 tonnes to Northern Ireland.
A benefit of the Windsor Framework, ratified by the UK and the EU in March 2023, was the opening of ‘green channels’ that would allow the resumption in trade in some goods, including seed potatoes.
Sales to Europe still blocked due to Brexit
While trade with Northern Ireland is re-opening, sales of seed potatoes to Europe remain blocked since Brexit.
NFU Scotland is calling on the UK government to re-double its efforts to resolve this impasse, recognising that there is significant intransigence at an EU level to seek a resolution. It strongly believes that any seed potato trade between the EU and GB must be reciprocal.
“Brexit and the Northern Ireland agreement brought significant and costly disruption to long-established trading arrangements between Scotland and Northern Ireland,” said NFU Scotland vice president Andrew Connon.
“It took three years of lobbying, but the Windsor Framework agreement and the introduction of ‘green’ channels for goods traded between Scotland and Northern Ireland saw sales of seed potatoes specifically recognised in the text of the agreement.”
This breakthrough creates opportunities for Scottish growers to re-establish links with the Northern Irish potato industry, he added.
Potato stocks in Europe under threat
With trade in seed potatoes to the rest of Europe still denied, NFU Scotland is continuing to lobby the UK Government and the EU to re-establish this trade link. “The complete, overnight loss of the European market for Scottish seed was a very damaging post-Brexit consequence.”
Mr Connon said: “It is widely known that potato stocks in Europe are now under threat due to plant disease pressures and it is time that the EU Commission listened to its member states who are desperately in need of fresh high health Scottish seed potatoes.
“The lack of availability to high health seed potatoes to grow healthy crops, compounded by some extreme weather, is having an impact on potato supplies and availability across Europe.
“Common sense and commercial reality need to prevail over political gamesmanship.”