Seed potato comeback
EFFORTS to re-establish Northern Ireland as a major seed potato exporter are gathering pace.
Several groups have joined forces to reverse the dramatic decline in the market over the past 10 years. In 1990, Ulster exported over 40,000t of seed potatoes. Last year, only about one-quarter of that tonnage was shipped.
A recent representation by the Ulster Farmers Union, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and Seed Potato Promotions to Morocco and Portugal, two of the Provinces major customers, found that quality, presentation and seed size were of major importance.
Seed size can be tackled immediately, says UFU member and seed grower David Wilson. Competitors, including Holland, Denmark, France and Scotland, work to a top riddle size of 55mm. "Growers are on the verge of burning off this years crop. We hope we can guide them to meet the demands of the export market."
SPP has announced it will provide 50% grant aid towards the cost of approved roller table spray applicators and tent drying systems to minimise the risk of soft rots developing in seed, another major concern. Applications must be submitted in advance.
A new cross-industry body, the Seed Potato Export Group, has been established to improve the competitiveness of the sector and to consolidate and develop markets. *