It has been confirmed that the EU has agreed to a vote on the necessary equivalency agreements to the UK, which will allow exports of ware potatoes and other plants products from Great Britain to the EU and Northern Irish markets. The exception is seed potatoes, which remain an outstanding issue and therefore will still be prohibited for export from GB to the EU or NI from 1 January 2021, and clarity is being sought for other certified seed.
The confirmation that the EU has taken the necessary steps to allow exports to continue will be a relief to many exporting businesses. This captures many major plants and plant products which would have otherwise been prohibited for export, such as ware potatoes, young tomato and strawberry plants, and rose plants.
There had been significant concern that without the necessary third country equivalency agreements, listing, or other plant health authorisations, exports of certain plants and plant products from GB would have been prohibited.
This could have cut off GB businesses from their vital EU and Northern Irish markets, particularly for key exports such as ware potatoes. The NFU has been pressing government on the importance of working with the EU in order to secure the various agreements before the end of the transition period and welcomes this positive step forward.
The EU has also indicated that they will vote to authorise the export of UK certified seed, including fodder seed, and Forest Reproductive Material (FRM) to the EU, but the timescales for a decision are still unclear. The NFU is pressing for clarity on this, emphasising the importance of securing this authorisation to allow key exports to continue, such as herbage seed into NI. In the meantime, any seed certified and sealed with an offer for sale prior to 31 December can continue moving until it reaches the final user. This is subject to plant health requirements, such as the requirements for a phytosanitary certificate and prenotification.
A key exception to these authorisations, or planned authorisations, is seed potatoes, which are now prohibited from moving from GB to the EU or NI. The EU has very stringent controls on the import of seed potatoes, with imports from all third countries apart from Switzerland prohibited. This will be a significant concern to those businesses which export seed potatoes into the EU market, and the NFU would urge both sides to reach an agreement as soon as possible in order to allow these trade flows to restart.
The other remaining prohibitions are:
- isolated bark of castanea
- plants of vitis other than fruit
- plants of Citrus L., Fortunella Swingle, Pncirus Raf., and their hybrids, other than fruits and seeds
- soil and growing media (unless 100% peat or coir. There are separate guidelines for growing media attached to plants, available to read online)