Brexit to revitalise Ireland’s seed potato sector

Ireland’s seed potato sector looks set to get a Brexit shot in the arm. This was one of the key messages delivered courtesy of the second Spring Tillage Webinar, hosted by Teagasc this week.

Driving this development will be the fact that Scottish seed can no longer be brought on to the island of Ireland, as a result of post-Brexit phytosanitary regulations imposed by Brussels.

While many ware growers imported this year’s seed before the end of 2020, it is now widely acknowledged that, in future, Irish producers will be reliant on home-produced seed to meet their needs.

Potato industry representatives are now urging ware and seed growers to come together in a co-ordinated manner in order to ensure that the overall production needs of the Irish potato industry are met in the most efficient way possible.

Significantly, it seems that the option of Irish ware growers sourcing seed from mainland Europe is not a runner, because of the disease risks associated with this practise.

Brexit will have a number of direct impacts

Prior to Christmas, Teagasc had reduced its projected farm income figures for the tillage sector in 2021. These figures were based around the threat of a no-deal Brexit.

Teagasc economists have confirmed that the actual Brexit trade deal struck will not be as impactful on Ireland’s tillage sector as had previously been envisaged. New economic projections for the industry are now being complied. They will be available over the coming weeks.

But, despite the fact that the EU and UK agreed a trade deal, which is tariff and quota-free, Brexit will have a number of direct impacts on Ireland’s tillage farmers.

These so-called non-tariff barriers to trade (NTB) include the costs of customs clearance; costs of determining rules of origin; costs associated with sanitary and phytosanitary issues; and technical barriers, due to trade inspections and possible transport delays due to border inspections.

UK no longer obliged to follow the EU’s standards regime

Teagasc is also pointing out that the UK is no longer obliged to follow the EU’s standards regime, where crop protection products are concerned. Currently, the UK and EU are in full harmony, where these matters are concerned.

However, changes that might take place over time could put a question mark over the long-term security of agrochemical supplies from the UK into Ireland.

In addition, future imports of cereal seed into Ireland could be put at risk, if the UK does go down the road of gene-editing.

The Brexit arrangements will also impact on the importation of second-hand farm machinery from the UK into Ireland. New regulations require importers to register with the Department of Agriculture. Registration with TRACES NT (the EU’s trade control system) is also a must.

From now on, all second-hand machinery brought in from the UK must be clean and free of soil and plant debris. A phytosanitary certificate will be required with all machinery subject to a physical inspection on arrival in Ireland.

One assumes that compliance with all of these new procedures will add to importer’s costs.