Mixed reaction to NI spud seed rules

18 May 2001

Mixed reaction to NI spud seed rules

By Andrew Swallow

NEW restrictions limiting the use of farm-saved potato seed to just one year in Northern Ireland have met a mixed response among growers.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development says the ruling aims to improve the quality of ware potatoes and protect plant health status.

Reversing the decline in Northern Irelands seed industry, which has plummeted from 4000ha in 1990 to an expected 900ha this year, is a key aim.

Meeting an EU plant health directive and improving ware production standards are other goals.

But some growers fear the ruling will allow seed producers and merchants to raise seed prices.

And even if seed prices do not rise, the loss of second year home-saved seed will cost others dearly.

It will make it much more expensive for us to grow potatoes, says FARMERS WEEKLY barometer farmer Mark McFerran.

Seed cost for his 11ha (27 acres) of Navan potatoes is about 150/ha (60/acre) having been multiplied up twice from super elite seed bought in two years ago.

Even though we are two years down the line I believe it is still SE quality, says Mr McFerran.

But all of it would fall foul of the new regulations which come into force on December 31.

However, others have welcomed the changes, saying it will raise the standard of potato production, whether for ware or seed.

We should be planting certified seed every year, says Brian Lilburn, who grows about 180ha (450 acres) of ware for pre-pack near Moira, Co Down.

This will take some of the cowboys out of the system.

DARDs Brian Gallagher says potentially 80% of growers could be affected by the ruling, which will cost growers an average 2000 a year more.

But that should be recouped in better returns in the long run, he claims. Growers will be able to sell more or produce more.

An Ulster Farmers Union proposal that all ware should be grown from certified seed stimulated the ruling, says Mr Gallagher.


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