The Potato Council has said it is aiming for a trade breakthrough with China during the World Potato Congress in Edinburgh in May 2012 “after a decade of false dawns”.

Announcing details of the event during the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston, Potato Council chairman Allan Stevenson said his aim would be to have a “viable” protocol in place with China in less than a year.

He said: “After six years of exchanging letters, we now have a Chinese delegation in Scotland looking at our supply chain from start to finish. Their trip has been funded by the Potato Council and it’s a critical step forward towards real commercial development.”

Mr Stevenson said the Dutch already had a protocol in place but it was restrictive, and required zero tolerance of pathogens or disease.

“That makes it unviable,” he said. “We don’t want to sign something we can’t use.”

Mr Stevenson said China required 3,000,000t of seed potatoes a year and Scotland would only be capable of supplying 5,000t.

“But it’s not just about bags of potatoes and we’re not simply interested in a massive export deal,” he added. “High-quality seed would only be part of a bigger package of training, science, agronomy and much more. “

The World Potato Congress will take place between 27-30 May 2012 in Edinburgh. The organisers are hoping for 600 delegates from more than 30 countries.