Sales of seed potatoes from the EU to the United Kingdom are only possible if British consumer growers arrange their own imports. The European seed sector is striving for a solution to make large-scale trade possible again.
Formally, it will no longer be possible to trade seed potatoes between the United Kingdom and the European Union from the summer of 2021. This is because the European Commission and the British government have not reached an agreement on this after Brexit.
Recently, however, direct imports of Dutch seed potatoes have become possible on a limited scale. That only concerns trade ‘without marketing’, which means that individual British consumer producers have to arrange their imports themselves without brokering. Furthermore, the condition is that only varieties may be imported that are not available in the United Kingdom (UK) itself.
For Europeans it is an undesirable situation. The restrictions make it difficult to sell large volumes to the UK. This is also evident from this year’s export figures so far.
Last year, the Netherlands exported more than 15,000 tonnes of seed potatoes to the United Kingdom. For this export season (harvest 2021), on December 31, the counter stood at 636 tons and even that amount is doubted by the seed sector.
The Dutch seed sector, under the impetus of the Dutch potato organisation (NAO), LTO, NVWA and NAK, is now investigating the possibility of a derogation based on equivalence. The aim of this is that conventional seed potato trade between the Netherlands and the UK should be possible again if both countries make clear mutual agreements about this.
The Dutch food and Consumer Product Safety Authority and NAK have now determined that such a derogation should be technically feasible for England and Wales. However, it remains to be seen whether there is sufficient political support for this. The seed sector asks the Dutch government to submit an application for the derogation to the European Commission and to forward it to the British government.
In the UK, England, Wales and Scotland each have their own requirements for the import of seed material. England and Wales will agree to the derogation. We expect the Scots to want to export their seed potatoes to the EU in return. That must be according to European rules and that is sensitive in London, because that was precisely the reason for Brexit.
In addition to the Netherlands, Denmark has also submitted a similar proposal for the export of seed potatoes to the European Commission and France also seems to be considering this. For now, the countries are not working together. This threatens to be a lengthy procedure and that is for the time being quite detrimental to the Dutch seed sector. In any case, we are asking politicians to speed up the proposal for a derogation.