3 May 1996

EU puts tough rules on Egyptian spuds

CALLS for a ban on Egyptian potatoes amid increasing fears over brown rot has led the EUs plant health committee to bring in stringent import rules.

Both the Potato Marketing Board and the National Farmers Union called for a ban last month after MAFF plant health inspectors discovered 16 positive samples of brown rot from Egyptian potatoes at British ports.

Egypt is a big exporter of potatoes to the UK, sending 80,000t a year which are mostly sold through the supermarkets. Although France, Spain and Finland imposed a ban last month, the EU committee failed to reach a majority decision until a delegation visited Egypt on a fact-finding tour.

As a result, all member states will be forced to test 200 tubers for every 25t of Egyptian potatoes, while Egypt has been asked to tighten its labelling and plant passport facilities.

Jim Padfield, NFU potato committee chairman, said he was satisfied with the restrictions, which are similar to those imposed on the Dutch government this year.

If brown rot is found in export consignment cases, the growing area in Egypt will be banned from exporting to the EU.

Mike Storey, PMB scientific liaison officer, said he was concerned the regulations imposed would be too late to make much difference this season. "Most Egyptian potatoes are already in the UK, but we hope this will be continued next season."

lScottish seed potato growers want their interests guarded by a seed sector group within the new GB potato organisation. In a special poll of 460 seed producers in Scotland, 39% said they wanted to retain their own Scottish Seed Potato Development Council. But 61% voted to transfer to the new national body,

The SSPDC, established in 1982 and headed by chief executive John Bethell, will continue to operate until the GB seed sector group is established. That is expected to be next year and within the 20 months the Scottish council has left under its present statute. Mr Bethell said he would retire when the handover was completed. &#42