New Year, new rules - what does it mean for potato exports?

Monday, 4 January 2021

The end of the transition period has passed and a trade deal agreed. But there are still changes to the way we will be trading with the EU. The key stumbling point for the potato industry was the sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) barriers and lack of third country equivalence.

Third Country Equivalence

Discussions have been ongoing with the European Commission on the subject of third country equivalence for plant reproductive material, plant health prohibitions and changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol. As it stands, the UK has not been granted full third country equivalence but the EU has voted to lift a number of plant health prohibitions.

Ware potatoes

The EU have voted in the PAFF (Plants, Animals, Feed and Food) committee on lifting the prohibition on ware potatoes for export to the EU and Northern Ireland. This allows the export of ware potatoes from the UK to the EU and from GB to Northern Ireland from 1 January 2021.

Seed potatoes

Seed potatoes fall under a different category than ware potatoes and exports of seed potatoes will not be possible from the UK to the EU or from GB to Northern Ireland from 1 January 2021. The EU has confirmed that they will not accept the case for a permanent change to the prohibition on seed potatoes. This is on the grounds that there is no agreement for GB to be dynamically aligned with EU rules in the same way that Switzerland is. Discussions on the third country equivalence will remain open, but nothing is expected to happen until later in 2021.

Northern Ireland

As per the above information, exports of ware potatoes to Northern Ireland are able to continue but seed potatoes are not. The Northern Ireland Protocol is now in play preventing a hard border to the Republic of Ireland. However, this also means that the island of Ireland is deemed a Single Epidemiological Unit (SEU) meaning Northern Ireland falls under the same sanitary and phytosanitary regulations as the EU.

Phytosanitary Regulations

A phytosanitary certificate (PC) will be necessary for all GB exports of fresh ware potatoes to the EU. An inspection of your potatoes will be required to obtain a PC. Subsequent costs will be incurred by you (the exporter) but if granted, you will receive the certificate in 7 days. If you are exporting from England or Wales, you must register with eDomero and use it to apply for an export PC for plants and plant products with APHA. If you are exporting from Scotland or Northern Ireland the application will differ.

Wood Packaging Material

A further change took place in shipping arrangements from the UK to the EU since 1 January. All Wood Packaging Materials (WPM) moving between the UK and the EU are required to meet ISPM15 international standards by undergoing heat treatment and marking. All WPM may be subject to official checks either upon or after entry to the EU.

Essentially, all WPMs such as pallets and crates must comply with the ISPM15 guidelines. This certification, declaring wooden pallets have been heat-treated and are free from pests and fungus, is key to preventing the spread of foreign species.

Until now, any pallets used in the shipping of goods to countries within the EU were exempt from this requirement – any pallets could be used or re-used when exporting goods. But now, all wooden pallets, crates, boxes etc. used to export outside of the UK must be certified and comply with ISPM15. Contact your supplier or TIMCON if you need more advice about moving WPM.

Additional Links

Alice Bailey

Senior Analyst Potatoes

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