Chipping potato supply to take hit with ban on UK imports

The supply in Ireland of chipping potatoes – the variety of potatoes used for manufacturing chips in the chip shop sector – is set to take a major hit from January 1.

From that time, after the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement comes to an end, potato and seed imports from the UK into the EU will be banned.

Thomas McKeown, the potato chairperson for the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), told AgriLand that the sector was informed recently by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine that no potato or seed will be coming in from the UK from January 1, as it will become a third country.

McKeown noted that there is some scope to alter EU laws that might facilitate the movement of chipping potatoes, but that this would be far more difficult to do where seeds are concerned, due to phytosanitary restrictions.

Generally, potatoes grown in Ireland are not suitable for chipping. However, McKeown said that, over the last four to five years, efforts have been made to develop a chipping potato sector in Ireland, such that there are now around 35 growers of these potatoes around the country.

There is also a ‘Potato Development Group’ involving he IFA, Teagasc, Bord Bia and the department, with the aim to progress that development further, though its work has been hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The IFA potato chairperson was keen to point out that the problem is not without its opportunities for developing a supply of chipping potatoes within Ireland.

However, the ban on seeds is likely to be a “big thing”.

At present, Ireland imports more potato seed than it grows at home, and McKeown highlighted that the seed sector here has been “in the doldrums for 15 or 20 years”.

At present, the only third country that the EU imports seed from is Switzerland. In order for UK seed to be allowed into the EU, including Ireland, agreement would be needed by all 27 EU member states.