Nine seed potato growers in Scotland have formed a co-op to protect the future of the sector after being shut out of the lucrative European market after Brexit.
The Seed Potato Organisation (SPO) says it will fund research, innovation, and technical services to benefit the seed potato sector; represent the views of seed potato grower members and present evidence to governments; support the development of seed potato markets; and work to ensure the economic and environmental sustainability of the seed potato sector.
It promises “an independent, transparent, and democratic organisation, set up as a co-operative, run by seed growers for the benefit of its members.”
Seed potato growers have been hit by a ban on selling their produce to Europe, in a row over sanitary and phytosanitary standards. After the UK’s departure from the single market, the trade and co-operation agreement with Europe failed to agree equivalence on seed potatoes. This has led to significant restrictions on Scottish seed exports to the EU and Northern Ireland – and the European Commission says the ban should stay, to keep potential disease out of the EU.
While the wrangling over trade continues, the SPO says it is recruiting more growers and wants to hear their views about how the co-op should be run, and is holding a series of meetings this summer.
Full membership with voting rights will be open to all growers, with each member paying a proposed joining fee of £2,000 to get the group up and running – a loan that will be repaid if the member leaves.
Members will then pay an annual fee based on area of seed grown – expected to be around £40 a hectare in the first year.