Fine Gael MEP Colm Markey has said that he will push for a temporary derogation on the ban of potato seed imports from the UK, despite the announcement of a support package for the sector.

The Cabinet signed off on a €3 million potato seed scheme today (May 24), which will aim to revive the industry in Ireland.

The funds, which will be made available in the year 2022 to 2023, will come from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR), the EU’s emergency instrument created to support countries negatively affected by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

In recent years, Ireland has been heavily reliant on Scotland in particular, for the importation of seed potatoes. However, this is no longer possible following a ban introduced after Brexit.

Markey, a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture, welcomed the announcement, but added that it will take significantly longer than a year to re-establish the potato seed market. Because of this, a temporary derogation on the import ban will also be necessary, he said.

“I will continue to push for some form of derogation at EU level to allow the movement of seed potatoes from the UK back into Ireland for a limited period.

Markey said that he has raised the idea multiple times at the AGRI Committee as well as with the European Commission. He explained that it is not just an issue for Ireland, but also Scotland, who grows 75% of the UK’s seed potatoes.

“Obviously, we are at a sensitive stage of the post-Brexit relationship but I would hope that common sense prevails, and a solution is found to help Ireland make the transition to becoming more self-sufficient when it comes to domestic seed production,” Markey concluded.

He concluded by stating that more should be done to protect and encourage Ireland’s potato industry, given our country’s history, and considering the current concerns around food security.