Both Teagasc and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue are confirming that Brexit will impact negatively on the quantities of seed potato that Irish growers can import from the UK.
However, the upside to such a development is the opportunity it will create for new and existing seed potato growers in Ireland to expand their operations, as producers seek to meet all of their seed requirements from locally-produced supplies.
This was a theme picked up on by the minister, during his presentation to the recent Teagasc Seed Potato webinar.
Challenges to seed potato sector
The minister said: “I am keen to see the potato seed sector develop and progress.
“Ireland’s potato industry is a critical element of our agri-food sector and has proven itself to be very resilient. Brexit is a further challenge, particularly in the context of seed potatoes.
“Following Brexit there has been exchanges with colleagues in the UK and the EU on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) equivalence, particularly where seed potatoes are concerned,” he added.
“These exchanges have now hardened and it doesn’t appear that there will be any further moves that might facilitate the 2021 season.
“Adequate planting stocks have been secured for this season. But, of course, the focus now turns to next year and the year after, in terms of securing a sustainable supply of seed potatoes for our domestic sector.”
Opportunities for Irish potato growers
The minister went on to point out that, in a post-Brexit scenario, there are opportunities to increase the supply of Irish grown seed potatoes.
He commented: “My department is now engaging with all relevant stakeholders to raise awareness around these matters.
“But this potential can only be realised if we have a close buy-in from all relevant groups.”
The minister made it very clear that the end goal, in this context, must be an increase in the production of high quality seed potatoes her in Ireland.
He specifically highlighted the role of the Potato Development Group – which involves the input of Teagasc, Bord Bia and the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) – in making this happen.
Support for Irish seed potato sector
“The Department of Agriculture continues to support the seed potato sector by supplying significant research funding to Teagasc, which runs a very successful potato breeding programme at Oakpark,” Minister McConalogue continued.
“My department further supports the seed potato sector courtesy of its support for the Tops Potato Propagation Centre in Donegal. Its capacity has been expanded to meet the envisaged demand for mini tubers.
“Furthermore, my department has a nationwide seed certification team to ensure that the needs of the seed potato sector are met in full, in this regard.
“There is also a significant laboratory resource underpinning this certification process.”
The minister also confirmed that haulm toppers and specialised salad potato harvesting equipment will be eligible for grant aid under the next rollout of the Targeted Agriculture Modernisation Schemes (TAMS) programme.
“I am also committed to further supporting growers in ways that will allow the seed potato sector expand on a sustainable basis during the period ahead. But the industry must work together in a cohesive way, in order to make all of this happen,” the minister concluded.