The ban on importation of seed potato from the UK, as a result of Brexit, is a 'massive issue' for Irish farmers at the minute.

Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) deputy president Brian Rushe led a delegation from the national potato committee to meet Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to discuss the impact of Brexit on Irish potato farmers and supports required to develop the Irish seed potato industry.

McConalogue said: “I will offer as much support as possible in developing the seed potato sector. However, further expansion of the seed area must be industry-led.

Approximately 60% of certified seed that is planted in Ireland [comes] from Scotland

IFA potato chair Thomas McKeown said that as a result of Brexit, the importation of seed potato from Scotland is banned under EU plant health regulation.

"This is a massive issue for Irish farmers, as Ireland is heavily reliant on the UK market for seed potato, with approximately 60% of certified seed that is planted in Ireland coming from Scotland.

“Our industry is proactive and growers can see the opportunity that will come from this challenge. However, it will take time, investment and expertise to reinvigorate the sector,” he added.

Tops farm

The IFA and a number of seed growers visited Tops farm in Donegal this week to explore what opportunities are available and the scale of growth which is required.

In a statement, the IFA said that, currently, approximately 280ha of seed is grown in Ireland and this area will need to be doubled to supply our domestic market.

“Even in an ideal world and if the industry doubled the area of seed grown this year, we would still have a shortfall for a number of years. It takes up to four years to get seed to pre-basic requirements,” McKeown said.

The IFA put forward a number of proposals for potential supports for the seed potato sector, especially under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, at the meeting.

Members on the call welcomed the Minister’s willingness to reinvigorate the sector.

The IFA will continue to liaise with senior Department officials on funding and support options for the sector in the coming weeks.