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Potatoes: Morocco

Volume 508: debated on Wednesday 7 April 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what discussions he has had with (a) his counterparts in devolved Administrations, (b) the European Commission and (c) the Government of Morocco on the recent impounding of seed potatoes exported from the UK to Morocco and the rejection of consignments due to contamination with common scab and silver scurf; and if he will make a statement; (325765)

(2) what recent discussions he has had on the dispute between the EU and Morocco on the import of tomatoes and the imposition by Morocco of trade restrictions on the export of seed potatoes to that country.

There have been discussions at official level between England, Scotland and Northern Ireland about the Moroccan rejection of consignments of seed potatoes from the UK. The problems have arisen because of a change in interpretation and inspection practices in Morocco regarding potato skin problems of traded seed potatoes. Although in making these changes the Moroccan authorities have acted within their sovereign rights, it is disappointing that there was no prior notification.

Officials have visited Morocco to discuss the problem and the British embassy and EU missions to Morocco have been involved. The European Commission and officials from member states have discussed the issue with Morocco in the margins of an international meeting and have agreed to establish a working group to discuss and agree consistent application of inspection methods in future years.

I am not aware of any current trade dispute between EU and Morocco in respect of the import of tomatoes. This trade is carefully monitored by the European Commission.