Brexit has created a difficult situation for some Irish farmers, who can no longer import British seed potatoes. However, the move could revitalise the domestic trade in the product. The import ban has the potential to cause headaches for farmers growing potatoes for consumers and for the snack industry, with a switch to seed potato from the Continent bringing increased transport costs and the prospect of importing diseases.
Before the Brexit trade deal there was concern over a threat to the traditional “chipper chip” as it was unclear if the British potatoes traditionally used in Irish fish and chip shops could still be imported. The pre-Christmas trade agreement between the EU and UK resolved that issue and British “table” potatoes continue to cross the Irish Sea.
However, seed potatoes – from which farmers grow their crop – can no longer make the same journey as EU-UK phytosanitary regulations are now not aligned.
Thomas McKeown, chairman of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) potato committee, told irishtimes.com that the production of potatoes would be unaffected this year as most had planned ahead. However, he warned that the ban could present “a huge problem” next year and beyond.
But there could be “great opportunities”
However, according to a County Donegal farmer, Brexit has brought “great opportunities” for Irish seed potato growers. Charlie Doherty, who is based in Burt, has been growing seed potatoes for 20 years. He has already sold out of this year’s stock and aims to increase his acreage this spring.
“I’ve already had more than twice as many inquiries,” he said, “and of course I’ve rung my normal buyers; they look after me so I would look after them. [Last year] I did actually plant a little more seed, which is a bit of a risk, but I anticipated so I had a bit extra, and I’m sold out already. In a normal year I wouldn’t be sold out until April.”
According to an article on irishtimes.com, the majority of seed potatoes used in Ireland are grown in Scotland. However, because of Brexit, seed potatoes can no longer be imported to European Union countries from the UK due to phytosanitary regulations.
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