Potatoes in Practice, the UK’s largest field event for potatoes and a highlight of the season for the sector bringing together variety demonstrations, research and trade exhibits in one place, is set to return on 12 August 2021 to Balruddery Farm (Angus, Dundee DD2 5LJ) with a focus on new varieties and a slightly different format to allow for social distancing, with the support of event partners James Hutton Institute, Agrii UK and SRUC.
It’s a welcome comeback for an event that has become an unmissable date in the potato industry calendar. After cancelling the event in 2020, Potatoes in Practice partners had to take a punt earlier in the year about the likely pandemic conditions by summer, knowing that unless demo plots were selected and planted in good time there would be no field event even if the restrictions were lifted.
The need to work around likely or possible limitations on indoor spaces will result in a Potatoes in Practice event with a slightly different appearance, focussing on exhibitor small spaces from which to interact with visitors.
For the same reasons, there will be no seminars this year: it’ll be all about the plots, and field exhibits where the trade can interact and re connect to discuss, new varieties, IPM and the challenges of the trading environment in a COVID safe environment.
This will also be the first Potatoes in Practice event for many years without the active participation and support of AHDB Potatoes. Following the levy payers’ No vote, the organisation is being wound down, which will present opportunities and challenges for the industry in the coming years.
Notwithstanding the many challenges for the potato industry, Potatoes in Practice 2021 is shaping up to be a key forum for the discussion of key topics about the technical and business realities.
Archie Gibson, executive director of Agrico UK Ltd and former chairman of the Food and Drink Federation of Scotland, comments:
“As the Brexit deadline approached at the end of December 2020, little did the trade imagine that in the final throw of the dice the seed potato industry in the UK would be cast adrift by the European Commission without the possibility of exporting to EU member states from 1 January 2021. This despite the promise of an FTA and the UK Government’s position approving a derogation to allow the import of EU certified seed until 30 June 2021.
“Growers, merchants and breeders all recognised the possibility of border delays and additional documentation, so set about exporting seed lots to European customers ahead of the deadline. Despite significant challenges around access to hauliers and reefer containers brought on by the combination of Brexit and COVID, most trades were successfully completed.
“But what of the future? The AHDB Potatoes No vote has exposed vulnerabilities and Potatoes in Practice represents a golden opportunity for the industry to come together to discuss some of the issues and how to resolve them.
“Under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) potato production was unsupported with much critical research being funded from the potato levy. For the industry to remain resilient and for food security to be assured all the stakeholders: industry, governments and main research providers need to agree on new ways of collaborating and funding vital work, to secure the future of the sector.
“The potato industry makes a significant economic contribution to the balance of trade through certified seed exports. While ware production underpins the fresh produce category at retail with processing crops vital to a dynamic and innovative processing industry.”
The cancellation of Potatoes in Practice 2020 due to COVID was a considerable loss to the sector in terms of seeing what’s new, networking with colleagues and contacts and catching up with friends in the trade, but it means that there will be even more to see, catch up on and talk about at this year’s event.
Between now and Potatoes in Practice 2022 there will be a lot of changes to shake out in the sector, but the silver lining is that there is an event to look forward to: it’s a sign that some normality is beginning to return to life and business.
The PIP story will continue at Potatoes in Practice 2021, on Thursday 12 August at Balruddery Farm, Angus. See you there!