ULSTER Farmers’ Union President Harry Sinclair has welcomed the swift implementation of legislation to help protect the local potato industry’s ‘high health’ status.
The UFU Presidents comments follow the Agriculture Ministers announcement this week to bring forward legislation to help minimise the risk of introducing Potato Ring Rot to Northern Ireland.
Mr Sinclair said: “This year has been a challenging year for producers with overall yields down, therefore creating a mismatch in demand and supply and exposing a need for local processors and packers to import ware potatoes from other EU member states. This importing activity has the ability to expose our industry to the risk of bacterial diseases such as Potato Ring Rot, which would result in serious economic consequences for our local industry. Whilst the new legislation will not stop importation of ware potatoes, the notification of landing requirement will allow for targeted inspection and ultimately give our potato industry greater protection.”
The UFU are calling on all potato processors and packers to be responsible and honour this new legal requirement by notifying all planned landings of ware potatoes from Poland, Romania, Spain and Portugal. All stakeholders in the industry have a key role to play going forward to ensure that we ultimately protect our seed-potato industry. This enhanced legislation fits well with existing notification requirements for seed potato imports.
Mr Sinclair added: “We have much to protect in Northern Ireland’s high health reputation for seed potatoes and our freedom from serious quarantine pests. This is a critical factor in retaining and improving the reputation of Northern Ireland seed potatoes around the world and the economic value this brings to the local rural economy. The continued recognition by the EU of our ‘high health’ status is of paramount importance for our potato industry.”
Mr Sinclair concluded: “Whilst this measure is a welcome step in the right direction our members would rather all landings of ware potatoes be a legal requirement and not just those from high risk areas such as Poland, Romania, Spain and Portugal. Furthermore our committees have advised DARD that they must improve their industry intelligence regarding field location identification for all crops grown to allow for the implementation of effective protection measures in the event of any such plant health outbreak.”