Farmers in Britain have warned they face increasing pressure from restrictions imposed by Brexit on trade of seed potatoes. Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Gordon MP Richard Thomson met with seed potato farmer John Lind and NFUS Vice-President Andrew Connon, to discuss the issues being faced by the sector.
Following the Brexit transition period, the UK was classified as a “third country” and under EU Commission rules “sensitive products” – which seed potatoes and ware are classified as – require separate technical listings for trade to be allowed from third countries. The Northern Ireland protocol means that in addition to exports to the EU, movement of seed potatoes from Great Britain to Northern Ireland is also banned.
Ms Martin and Mr Thomson met to discuss the issues the farmers are facing last week with farmers expressing concern about how long the ban may be in place.
Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said: “The NFUS have consistently argued for frictionless and unfettered access to the European market and have been let down by the UK Government.
“Having the outlet of the single market and the customs union has been vital to Scottish agriculture and without that access it is clear the impact has been hugely detrimental.
“In the case of seed potatoes what the UK Government’s Brexit agreement has done has cut off existing EU customers from the Scottish seed potatoes they have relied on for decades. The varieties of seed potatoes grown here, particularly in the North East are premium products highly desired across Europe.
“The impact of even a year of not being able to supply their clients will be devastating for the future of this sector in Scotland. It was important for Richard Thomson MP and I to visit Mr Lind’s farm and discuss these issues with both him and Mr Connon and to see first-hand the obstacles they are facing.“
This is yet another example of a key Scottish industry being disproportionately impacted by the UK’s exit from the European Union.
“The UK Government is simply not doing enough to support seed potato farmers despite promises from the Tories that Brexit would offer prosperity and opportunity for business. Farmers have been left in limbo and it is an outrage.”
Commenting, Richard Thomson MP said: “Scotland is a world-leader in seed potato production. It was good to be able to make a visit to one of Scotland’s leading producers and to learn more about the current issues facing the sector.
“It’s in Europe that the largest and most lucrative markets have always been found for Scottish seed potatoes. However, Brexit – in particular the UK Government’s determination not to agree continued alignment on food standards – is putting this trade at grave peril.
“Far from capturing new markets, the story of Brexit to date for farmers and food producers has been one of UK Government incompetence seeing export market share being threatened, while making it harder to compete domestically.
“The UK Government could eliminate overnight many obstacles to trade by agreeing to align again with the EU on food and welfare standards. The reason the UK Government doesn’t want to do this is because it feels it needs to be able to secure trade deals by allowing domestic producers to be undercut by lower food and welfare standards on imported products.
“Farmers and food producers all across Europe and further afield are desperate to be able to access Scottish seed potatoes and our farmers and food producers need the free, unfettered access to EU markets that the EU is still enjoying in UK markets. It would be unforgivable if the UK Government were to sacrifice the position of our world-leading seed potato growers in pursuit of a trade deal with the US that looks to be years away at best. Our seed potato growers need action from the UK Government now.”
Source: Office of Gillian Martin, MSP for Aberdeenshire East
Cover photo: Richard Thomson MP (left) and East MSP Gillian Martin
Niamh Burns, Press and Communications Officer