Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
656. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to support the Irish seed potato sector post Brexit should the import of seed potato from the UK no longer be possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44531/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 655 and 656 together.
Under EU legislation, Ireland is one of a small number of areas within the EU officially recognised as a High-Grade Seed Area to produce seed potatoes. This is because the country is free from a number of significant potato diseases that occur in other Member States.
My Department supports the Irish Seed potato sector by providing funding to Teagasc who carry out a very successful potato breeding programme. It further supports the seed potato sector through the production of High Grade seed material at my Department's facility in Co. Donegal. A nationwide seed certification team is in place to ensure the production of high-grade seed with the capability to deliver on additional acreage and laboratory capacity, if required.
The certification scheme includes soil and tuber sampling and testing for pest and disease control. This high quality disease-free seed is made available to the industry for further multiplication and supply to commercial growers and for export. Post-Brexit, there will be significant opportunities to increase the production and supply of Irish grown seed potatoes to replace UK imports.
My Department also participates in the Potato Development Group, which has representation from Bord Bia, Teagasc and the IFA and is actively investigating future markets for Irish potatoes and, in particular, the great opportunities presented in the coming years for import substitution on the fresh chipping markets. As part of the work of this group, Bord Bia has produced a video promoting the use of Irish grown potatoes for the fresh chipping market. Recent consumer data shows that the potato market has grown in recent years in value terms. It is hoped that these gains will be sustained and increased with the jointly-funded industry and EU potato promotional scheme which has a total committed spend of nearly €2 million over a three year period.