DEFRA HAS announced that it must be pre-notified of all potato imports from the Netherlands in future to strengthen UK protection against the risk of potato ring rot.

These arrangement, similar to those already in place for imports of German and Polish potatoes, are being introduced in response to new outbreaks of ring rot in the Netherlands.

There have been four confirmed outbreaks of ring rot in the Netherlands 2004 seed potato harvest, according to DEFRA.

While the number of outbreaks in the Netherlands is still substantially fewer than in Germany and Poland, the amount of potatoes imported from the Netherlands is greater, particularly of seed potatoes where the potential consequences arising from an outbreak are of most concern.

The majority of seed potatoes imported to the UK are from the Netherlands.

In 2003, Customs and Excise recorded a total of 9,795 tonnes of seed potatoes imported from the EU, with 7,166 tonnes from the Netherlands.

The measures, which take effect on 7 March 2005, require businesses importing Dutch potatoes into England to provide the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate with specified information about the consignment at least two days in advance of introduction.

Importers of seed potato consignments arriving after 1 September 2004, but before the Order comes into force, should notify similar information no later than 21 March 2005.