SNP MPs have written to the UK Government and the EU Vice-President urging both sides to remove Brexit-induced barriers regarding the export of Scottish seed potatoes to the European Union. Richard Thomson MP (Gordon), Alyn Smith MP (Stirling) and Dave Doogan MP (Angus) all represent constituencies containing significant farming communities and have echoed the concerns of their constituents and NFU Scotland over the continuing obstacles farmers face in exporting seed potatoes because of Brexit.
Prior to Brexit, Scottish seed potatoes were a crucial import for European markets. However, since January 2021 Scotland’s farmers have been unable to export seed potatoes to the EU, including Northern Ireland, because of changes in trade regulations as a result of Brexit. These Brexit barriers have been put in place despite there being no change to the domestic UK plant health requirements for seed potatoes dating from when the UK exited from the EU on this date, or indeed any reduction in the quality of the product itself.
Writing to the UK’s International Trade Secretary, the MPs said:
“The agriculture sector is a significant contributor to the Scottish economy, generating a gross output of £3.3 billion annually. Over 67,000 people are employed in Scottish agriculture and the sector supports thousands more in supply chains… The high quality of Scottish seed potatoes is reflected in the fact that Scotland grows 75 per cent of the UK’s seed potatoes which are exported to more than 40 countries”
“It is therefore deeply concerning that since January 2021 Scotland’s farmers have been virtually unable to export seed potatoes to the EU… As you may know, potatoes grown in Europe are vulnerable to developing diseases which ultimately render the crops unsuitable. Without ready access to an ongoing supply of the disease-free seed potato crop which Scotland can produce, there will be a steady diminution in quality of the potatoes able to be grown in the EU, which will begin to affect EU farmers, food producers and ultimately, consumers as well.”
“Irrespective as to any other considerations around long-term UK-EU trading relations, we believe that there would be an overwhelming mutual benefit for both the UK and the EU if a way could be found to swiftly remove the current barriers to trade in this important sector.”
“There is a strong desire amongst farmers and food producers alike in the EU to once again be able to import high quality Scottish seed potatoes. That desire is entirely reciprocated by the Scottish producers, who once again wish to be able to meet that demand.”
“All that stands in the way is the lack of any kind of agreement which would once again facilitate this mutually beneficial trade between Scotland and the EU... We would urge you to seek to open discussions with the EU as a matter of urgency with a view to re-establishing as quickly as possible a seamless trade in seed potatoes between the UK and EU.”