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Cuba to receive potato seeds from Scotland

Cuba to receive potato seeds from Scotland
November 7th, 2014

An old agreement to supply GB seed potatoes to Castro’s Cuba has been
revisited after delegates recently signed off a deal during negotiations
in Scotland. At www.freshfruitportal.com we speak with the Agriculture
and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Potato Council’s head of seed
and export, Robert Burns, to find out more.

The new and improved agreement between Scotland and the communist island
marks the beginning of a resurgence into the Caribbean market, according
to Burns who works in partnership with the Scottish government, Science
and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) and the Potato Council to
boost export opportunities.

Burns was in the Cuban capital Havana earlier this year to kick-start
talks, and last month the Cuban delegation – consisting of plant health
and agricultural officials – visited the U.K. to ink the deal as part of
a wider Cuban government pledge to prioritize food security.

“It’s a joint venture with the Scottish government; this is what we do,
we work together with the government to open new markets,” Burns tells
www.freshfruitportal.com.

“We used to have a very good market with Cuba a number of years ago and
it dried up and the agreement with them lapsed unfortunately. The reason
why they (Cubans) wanted to go through the whole arrangement again was
to ensure that we could negotiate a better agreement and that is exactly
what we have done.

“We sat down around the table to sort out the details of the imports and
requirements, printed them off in both English and Spanish and signed
them that day.”

Later this year between eight to ten varieties will be dispatched for
trials in Cuba.

“We will have to see how these trials go. The agreement is based on the
Scottish minimum tolerance plus a few extra bits to do with various
organisms, which were not included before.

“One thing that we did manage to put in our agreement was a field
tolerance for blackleg disease which was not there before and this will
help our exporters quite a lot.

“Now that it has been signed off it is open ended deal. It is now in
place, although it’s still subject to plant health documents and so on.
We are all very excited and happy to have made a success of this.”

Cuba pushing for better food security

The ailing Cuban economy has led to several governmental reforms over
recent years with some relaxing on historic prohibitions such as trade
and travel embargos, and restrictions in the use of state-owned
agricultural land and the cultivation and selling of fresh produce.

Simultaneously, President Raúl Castro has pledged to do more to combat
poverty and improve the food supply chain in general. In addition, the
country is looking at reducing its food imports and becoming more
self-sufficient in the longer term.

“Cuba had an import replacement policy to try to drive their foreign
exchange requirements and they tried to produce some Cuban varieties but
they didn’t work out that well which is why they are now coming back to
European markets,” Burns adds.

“I gave a presentation to the ministry of agriculture officials where I
explained the Egyptian model of importing high quality seed, multiplying
it once and then multiplying it a second time for a domestic supply chain.

“This seemed attractive to them because obviously you are getting two
crops out of it which more than pays for itself. So they seemed to like
this idea and I think this is the model they will probably use.”

Source: FreshFruitPortal.com » Cuba to receive potato seeds from
Scotland –
http://www.freshfruitportal.com/2014/11/07/cuba-to-receive-potato-seeds-from-scotland/?country=belgium

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