The first audits for growers entering into potato industry’s ring rot Safe Haven Certification Scheme are likely to begin this month, according to the British Potato Council.

Final details of the scheme, which will be administered by Assured Produce, are being sent to seed growers and key decision makers within the potato industry next week, says BPC seed manager Iain Dykes.

“I would expect the first inspections to take place within a month, with it gathering pace through the winter.”

The scheme is designed to give potato growers practical protection against potato ring rot. “A policy of exclusion offers the best protection for GB growers.

The threat is real, and the opportunity to exclude it will not last forever.”

To be accredited growers will be audited on their ring rot prevention procedures – a series of practical and straightforward standards, known to prevent the disease from spreading, have been set up for growers to meet.

“The idea is growers will be audited at the same time by the certification body they use for any other assurance scheme they are in,” says Mr Dykes. “That should minimise the cost and inconvenience.”

To join simply contact your certification body and ask for a safe haven bolt-on at the next audit, he says.

“The five certification bodies able to audit the scheme cover 99.9% of assessments.

At the next audit you will need to put aside an extra two and half hours – that’s how long trial audits have taken. I would envisage at subsequent audits it won’t take as long.”

Growers already part of a farm assurance scheme will be charged around an extra 50 for the bolt-on audit. “If they are not in any existing farm assurance scheme they will need a separate audit costing around 150.”