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Jamie Stone seeks support for seed potato farmers amid flooding fears

By Alan Hendry

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Jamie Stone warned that damage to the seed potato crop could be a food security issue.
Jamie Stone warned that damage to the seed potato crop could be a food security issue.

Jamie Stone has called for support for seed potato farmers amid fears about the impact of Storm Babet on their crops.

He pointed out that seed potato production accounts for 14 per cent of the UK's croppable potato area and seed exports generate some £42 million in income a year. The UK exports seed potatoes to 50 countries worldwide.

Mr Stone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, pressed the UK farming and food minister Mark Spencer on the issue in the House of Commons, asking him to give "maximum encouragement" to the Scottish Government to help farmers.

Mr Stone said later: "Having spoken to farmers in my constituency, I am greatly concerned that their ground is already soaking wet and that these floods could have a detrimental impact on our seed potato stock.

"You simply cannot leave potatoes immersed in water for any length of time. Considering that it costs £4000 to plant only one acre of seed potatoes, this flood could cost dearly.

"And it's not just the short-term consequences to worry about. If the flooding destroys the crop this year, this will have a knock-on effect on next year's yield.

"This could be a food security issue that the Scottish Government should be taking very seriously, which is why I was surprised to see that none of the SNP members thought to raise this."

Earlier, in the Commons, Mr Stone had said: "Some of the finest seed potatoes are grown in the north of Scotland. Right now, the seed potato farmers are worried sick because a whole load of that crop is below water.

"This also poses a question mark over the supply of seed for next year. I know it's devolved. I know the minister is a farmer. Would he put the maximum encouragement in the direction of the Scottish Government to please help the farmers?"

Mr Spencer replied: "Once a seed potato is under water for more than a week it probably will be destroyed. Scottish seed potatoes are some of the finest seed produced anywhere in the world and I would encourage him to seek contact with the Scottish Government to get them to help."

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