Chinese market to open up to Scottish seed potatoes

A deal has been struck to allow Scottish seed potatoes to be imported to China for the first time.

This is seen as a massive opportunity for the Scottish agriculture sector as China is the biggest potato-producing nation in the world and Scotland will be the only seed producer to gain access to this market.

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Peter Grewar, NFU Scotland’s potatoes working group chairman, said: “Although trade paths like this don’t open up immediately, and there is still work to be done, it is extremely encouraging to see that our industry is getting a head start on developing these new partnerships.

“Seed potatoes are one of Scotland’s most valuable agricultural outputs, with the potato sector as a whole producing 7% of Scotland’s agricultural output.

“Put into context, the sector is equal to the sheep sector in Scotland, or it is equal to the pork, poultry and egg sectors combined.”

Under the trade deal, Scottish seed potatoes will be the only seed potatoes to gain access to the Chinese market at this time.

Rob Burns, AHDB Potatoes head of seed and export, said in theory seed could move to China this export season, but it was more likely to start in 2019.

Tonnages were likely to be low to start with as exporters test the water – possibly 5,000 to 10,000t in the first season.

Mr Burns added that as it was a bilateral trade deal between the UK and China it was not linked to the UK’s membership of the EU.

Scotland currently exports approximately 300,000 tonnes of seed potato annually.

Fergus Ewing, Scotland rural affairs minister, said the deal recognised Scotland’s global reputation for producing high-quality seed potatoes.

He added: “The signing of this trade agreement has the potential to lead to its expansion to the rest of the UK, opening up the possibility of market diversification and contributing towards further sustainable growth in the sector.”