The seed sector makes up around 11% of potato production in Great Britain. Most (c.70%) is planted in Scotland, where unique growing conditions help to assure the high health status of the seed, writes Sara Maslowski, Senior Analyst at AHDB.
She writes: “We typically export 16-17% of our total GB seed crop each year. Around three quarters of UK seed exports, c.70Kt, is destined for non-EU countries. Egypt is the largest market by far, purchasing approximately half of all UK seed exports. This is followed by Morocco with a smaller but still significant proportion (c. 10% of all UK seed exports). Within the EU, we ship the most to Spain and the Canaries (c 10% of all UK seed exports); the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland are also key destinations.”
Imports vary from year to year depending on the availability and price of domestic seed, and industry requirements for specific varieties, Maslowski points out. Most of this comes from the Netherlands for use by growers in England and Wales. According to APHA, around 30Kt of seed was imported in 2018-19 for this purpose.
The situation is different in Scotland. A voluntary arrangement with industry is in place meaning only locally sourced seed can be used. This was set up to maintain the high health status of its seed by making sure disease is not introduced through imported material.
In the event of a no deal exit, both tariff and non-tariff barriers will come to bear, Maslowski writes.
- Non-tariff barriers – the UK would be unable to export seed potatoes into the EU until the UK is granted third country equivalency. Varieties registered on UK National Lists but not the EU Common Catalogue would no longer be marketable in the EU. A full explanation of non-tariff barriers can be found here.
- Tariff barriers – tariffs would apply to all destinations, whereas previously Egypt and Morocco had a tariff free arrangement. If current tariff rates stand, these would be 2% to Egypt and 2.5% to Morocco. For exports into the EU, the tariff rate would be 4.5%. More details on individual tariff rates can be found here.