Monday, August 22, 2005

Spud bashing

I suppose if we cannot rely on the accountants to rise up and slaughter our oppressors, is there any hope that the farmers will do the deed for us?

Certainly, the EU seems to be doing everything it can to upset them, not least the potato farmers, who fear that their production costs may be pushed up by several hundred thousand pounds as a result of a new EU plant health directive currently under "consultation".

According to The Scotsman, industry leaders are to meet at the Oxford headquarters of the British Potato Council (BPC) this week and are expected to mount a hostile reception to the proposals designed to curb the potato cyst nematode (PCN).

In addition to added production costs, the proposed directive could also limit growers to certain varieties which may not be suitable to the market or to growing conditions. The directive could also have a significant knock-on effect on growers of bulbs, strawberries, brassicas, alliums and sugar beet where they are grown in rotation with potatoes.

If grown on PCN infested land, these crops would have to be proven to be free of infestation by washing or brushing practically free of soil after harvesting, adding significantly to costs.

Neither the BPC nor the farmers' unions believe the added controls, designed to update a 1969 directive, are justified. They maintain that current controls and attendant UK farming practices are sufficiently robust. "UK growers already exercise a strict regime of using resistant varieties and crop rotation to limit PCN spread," says Dr Mike Storey, BPC's head of research "We have to ask what is the point of these proposals."

The trouble is, I cannot see farmers - much less the general populus - rallying to the cry: "down with the plant health directive" and manning the barricades. However, there is a Cambridgeshire potato farmer who owns a pristine World War II FU4 Corsair ground attack aircraft, which is often displayed at Duxford.

A few modifications and a quick trip to Brussels, perhaps?

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