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Brexit deal blow for seed potato firm

JBA Seed Potatoes in Annan say they could lose up to £125,000 annually due to the changes

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By Donald Turvill
Annan and Eskdale
Brexit deal blow for seed potato firm

A MAJOR seed potato producer based in Annan has slammed the post-Brexit trade deal struck between the UK and EU after negotiators agreed to an export ban on the planting vegetable from January 1.

A letter from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) outlined that whilst the EU will allow “almost all food and plant exports” from the UK to continue from Friday, EU member states “will not accept our case for a permanent change to the prohibition on seed potatoes … on the grounds that there is no agreement for GB to be dynamically aligned with EU rules.”

The market, worth about £112 million annually to Scotland, is integral to the global production of chips and crisps, with one fifth of exports going to the EU.

JBA Seed Potatoes in Annan, which has supplied the ground-bound tatties to garden centres and allotments across the UK and EU for decades, announced on Christmas Eve that due to the changes they will no longer be able to send produce to the EU27 and Northern Ireland, which will remain in the single market for goods.

The family-run company added in a statement on Facebook that their last orders have been shipped to the soon-to-be vetoed destinations.

Speaking earlier this week, manager Iain Barbour called the news “a massive disaster for everyone”.

He added: “It’s a blow to us as we have made good progress into the European market which now includes Northern Ireland. To lose Northern and Southern Ireland is the biggest blow to us but other growers had made great strides into France, Germany and Holland.”

“One company I know would sell over half of his produce to Europe so it’s a big loss for them. We will have to look at other markets whilst we appeal to the government to try and strike a deal for seed to be exported once more.

“If no deal is struck then planting areas of seed potatoes will be down and many customers in Europe and Northern Ireland will be unable to source some of their favourite varieties.”

Iain estimates that between £75,000 and £125,000 will be lost to JBA annually due to the changes and added that the firm “will now have to look at other ways to operate the business and make up for this loss.”

He continued: “My honest opinion is that we haven’t been supported by the Scottish Government enough to make sure that Scottish seed was going to be part of the deal. Seed potatoes are not a big enough factor to affect any trade deals and I think it’s more of an oversight which we hope can be rectified quickly.

“The EU gave the reason that our seed certification was no longer aligned to their system but our scheme has not changed and is actually one of the highest health statuses in the world so matching them would not be a problem.

“Thankfully, consumption potatoes that are mainly grown in this area will still be allowed to be exported. We are niche seed potato growers in this area and we will adapt quickly to any challenges.”

Iain added that no job losses are expected at the business as a result of the trade deal.

Meanwhile, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said the deal means there are ‘huge opportunities’ ahead for Scotland’s businesses.

He said: “This is a historic moment for us all. There are enormous opportunities ahead of us, and we all need to make the most of them.”

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