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Cabinet Secretary discusses seed potato exports

2 August 2011

British seed potato exports were top of the agenda when Scottish Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead, met the chair of AHDB Potatoes seed export committee, Robert Doig.

The Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment discussed the achievements and challenges faced by growers and exporters in the demanding export markets with Robert Doig and Gordon Smillie from Caithness Potatoes and AHDB Potatoes head of seed and export, Mark Prentice.

 “The seed potato industry is becoming increasingly important to the Scottish economy,” said Robert. “Increasing numbers of customers overseas appreciate the health benefits of the maritime Scottish climate for producing seed potatoes. This has contributed to an overall increase in exports of 30 per cent over the past ten years.”

Gordon and Robert discussed the protection of Scotland’s high plant health status with Mr Lochhead, expressing the importance of support in this valuable area.

 “The success of the entire British potato sector depends on plant health,” explained Mark. “This is why we are supporting initiatives such as £500k worth of essential research on ‘Dickeya-blackleg’ co-funded by AHDB Potatoes and the Scottish Government.

“As 95 per cent of non-EU seed potato exports come from Scotland, the sector really values the advisory services offered by the Scottish Government’s dedicated potato teams at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) and the Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate (RPID),” said Robert. “Furthermore, there is a dedicated resource at SASA dealing with seed potato export liaison. It is vital that both the industry and Government supported services work together to capitalise on the opportunities in export markets.”

During his visit, Mr Lochhead was shown round the new state-of-the-art storage and grading complex that Robert has developed over the last five years with the help of Scottish Government grant funding from the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP).

The Minister watched as potatoes were prepared for dispatch to Egypt, Israel and Iraq.

“Imports to Egypt have achieved a year-on-year increase of 32 per cent. The yield from these seeds will be primarily used for consumption in Egypt, but some are re-exported as ware to the EU and increasingly countries like Russia,” explained Robert.

“We are delighted that Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead has taken time out of his busy schedule to come and discuss seed potato exports,” he continued. “We are proud of our seed potato exports and AHDB Potatoes, together with the Scottish Government, will continue to nurture it so it fulfills its full potential.”

Mr Lochhead observed that Scottish seed potatoes have an outstanding reputation in both national and international markets, due to their excellent quality and high health status.

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