THE SEED potatoes believed to have brought ring rot to the UK travelled an 11,000-mile round trip to the tropics before they were shipped to the UK, the government has revealed.

They were rejected in Honduras, resorted and rebagged before being sent to Welsh seed potato grower John Morgan, according to a Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs report.

The seed, imported into the UK in April 2003, was first shipped to Honduras in Sept 2002, according to Appendix six of DEFRA‘s Final Potato Ring Rot Report.

The document details how the seed was rejected there due to soil contamination.

The temperature in the containers rose as the seed arrived in the tropics, so much of the seed had sprouted by the time it arrived back in Holland.

Here the stock was unpacked, sorted and rebagged before 2.2 tonnes of the original 34t consignment was shipped to the UK.

It was the daughter crop of this lot of the Provento variety that was found to have ring rot in November 2003.

But by this time the ware crops from other lots that were shipped to Portugal, Iraq, Honduras and the Ukraine, had been consumed.

Despite extensive testing by UK and Dutch authorities of all seed traced to the batch and the farm in Holland that supplied the seed, the source of the disease has still not been found.

But the authorities cannot follow up any possible link with the container that carried the seed because there is no record of prior loads.

The seed that arrived in the UK was given no more than the routine test for ring rot.

Our Keep British Crops Healthy campaign page has more information on the plight of growers battling notifiable pests or diseases.

There are also links to find out more about existing outbreaks and those that could be just round the corner.