A MOVE by Defra to block large-scale imports of seed potatoes originating from the European Union (EU) is creating new challenges for growers in Pembrokeshire.

Up to 10,000 tonnes of seed potatoes were exported from the EU to Great Britain (GB) annually.

But, with seed potatoes not included in the post-Brexit trade deal, applications to market imported seed potatoes from the EU will now only be considered on a “case-by-case’’ basis.

It comes several months after the EU refused to allow imports of seed potatoes from GB into the EU and Northern Ireland.

Defra said considering case-by-case import applications was recognition that the UK is broadly self-sufficient in seed potatoes, while providing a mechanism for future marketing authorisations.

It continues to press the EU to reconsider its position on prohibiting imports of seed potatoes from Britain.

The veto on EU imports will have an impact as varieties imported from the EU are different to those grown in Britain.

This can be mitigated through the use of farm-saved seed.

As seed potato production is a lengthy process, with ‘clean’ seed multiplied up over several years, the market impact will not be short lived.

In Pembrokeshire, Puffin Produce said the ban had some implications for potato production in Pembrokeshire but the company was “working its way through it’’.

The majority of its seed for potato crops grown for human consumption come from Scotland and England but, in recent years, it has also imported a lesser amount of EU-grown seed; these are mainly newer varieties with better disease resistance and yield or improved consumer qualities.

This is particularly true for the tonnage grown for the chipping trade in Pembrokeshire.

Over the last three years Puffin has grown some of its own certified seed of newer, EU-bred potato varieties in the county.

It implemented this policy because of difficulties with reliably sourcing and securing the tonnages it needed.

“Securing the higher grade input seed for this certified seed production in 2022 has been the biggest challenge but we have worked out a way forward in co-operation with the breeders themselves,’’ said Puffin’s head of field services, Stephen Mathias.