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16/10/19 09:41

Seed potato Brexit concerns

Sector at risk of a ‘no deal’.

Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon has written to Minister of State at DEFRA George Eustice seeking urgent clarification and assurance that Scottish seed potatoes can continue to be exported to third countries, such as Egypt, in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

This is all the more urgent given that the UK will not be a listed third country for seed and other plant propagating material if the UK leaves the EU in a 'no deal' scenario and will therefore be unable to continue our exports to the EU.

She said:

“Scotland currently exports around 20,000 tonnes of seed potatoes to the EU and 30-40,000 tonnes annually to Egypt under current trading arrangements. In the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, Scottish seed potatoes will be prohibited from entering the EU market.

“With just over two weeks to go until a potential ‘no deal’, we are seeking urgent clarity from the UK Government on the potential impact on our farmers ability to trade with lucrative third country markets, such as Egypt which will result from changes in our trading relationships.

“Scotland’s seed potatoes are world renowned and we must find a way to mitigate the devastating impact leaving the European Union will have.”

Full text of the letter.

I am writing to receive clarification and assurance that Scottish Seed Potatoes can be exported to third countries such as Egypt and Canary Islands in the event that the UK leaves the EU with a No Deal.

On 19 September, I met with members of the British Potato Trade Association (BPTA) who continue to raise legitimate concerns about not having access to EU and key third country export markets in such circumstances.

As 75% of the UK’s seed potatoes are grown in Scotland and Scottish seed is responsible for approximately 80% of UK seed potato exports, the impacts of a No Deal Brexit will disproportionately affect Scottish seed potato exporters. Seed potatoes from Scotland are world renowned for their high health status: they are of premium quality and are a successful and important part of Scotland’s rural economy.

Egypt is currently Scotland’s largest seed potato market at around 30-40 thousand tonnes annually. As Egypt currently has an FTA/Bilateral agreement with the EU, I would welcome clarification on what the trading circumstances will be if the UK becomes a third country.

Tariffs are a key concern for exporters and under the current Agreement, Egypt does not  impose any tariffs on imports from the EU.  Even modest tariffs that would apply if there is no agreement between the UK and Egypt present a possible loss in trade.  Priority needs to be on rolling-over the existing EU-Egypt agreement to establish a UK-Egypt equivalent. As Defra leads on the bilateral on behalf of the UK, I am looking for an update on progress on this. I am concerned that the Scottish producers involved in this key export have not had certainty on this sooner.

Another market concerning the BPTA is the Canary Islands. In relation to phytosanitary (plant health) standards, the Canary Islands are treated as being outside the EU as a third country. I am seeking confirmation and assurance from you that there will be no changes to the current exporting procedures, including customs and tariffs, to Canary Islands in the event that the UK leaves the EU with no deal.
 
The people of Scotland did not vote for Brexit but despite this, these examples yet again highlight that Scottish industries may well have to pay an unacceptably high price for losing free trade.  We must proceed to find viable ways to mitigate the risks that leaving the EU will have on all of us, which is one of the reasons why Scottish Government officials have engaged fully and constructively with their counterparts in Defra and the other devolved administrations on this matter.

I look forward to receiving an early response from you on these two urgent matters concerning the Scottish Seed potato export market.