Yesterday, Narvay Quintero, the Regional Minister for Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food Sovereignty, commented on the recent ban on importing potatoes from the UK. Speaking alongside Regional President Fernando Clavijo and GOAG Canarias President Rafael Hernández during a visit to the Agricultural Transformation Society (SAT) Izaña farm in Güímar, Quintero said that although the Canary Islands government stands by the 1987 ministerial order protecting local markets against pests, clarification on the geographical scope of the ban is needed.
Quintero emphasised the situation’s “economic and sanitary repercussions” and revealed that talks are underway with local producers and importers to identify alternative markets. More urgently, he pointed out that the primary concern is the sourcing of seed for the next planting season, 90% of which is typically imported from the UK.
In response to the Spanish government’s ban—which was instituted because of the Colorado beetle infestation in England—Quintero urged for a distinction to be made between England and the rest of the United Kingdom. “This approach aligns with the rest of Europe and would allow for the import of seed potatoes,” he said.
CANARY ISLANDS: ALTERNATIVE SOURCES OF POTATOES
Seeking to assuage concerns, Quintero assured that importers are already securing alternative sources of potatoes, anticipating market reorganisation in the coming days. “This crisis not only jeopardises a staple food for the Canary Islands but also highlights the need for a commitment to local agriculture and production. Currently, we meet 70% of the annual potato demand locally, but our goal should be 100%,” he added.
Additionally, Clavijo voiced his intentions to reinstate a water works agreement from his previous term, initially allocated with €900 million over a decade but discontinued in 2019. Regarding potato imports, he stated, “We shouldn’t be Europe’s market for leftovers. There must be controls in place to ensure fair competition with local producers.” Hernández echoed this sentiment, calling for “reasonable food sovereignty.”
SAT Izaña, over 40 years old, is the primary strawberry producer in the Canary Islands, contributing around 600 tonnes annually. The co-operative’s 14 members cultivate a diverse range of produce, from cauliflower and broccoli to black potatoes and courgettes, across 112.81 hectares.