Hundreds of farmers have been left unable to source grass seed from the UK as Brexit phytosanitary regulations halt imports into Ireland.
oth Cotswold Seeds and Western Seeds confirmed to the Farming Independent that hundreds of Irish farmers have been unable to source seed from this this spring due to ongoing certification delays under Brexit.
John Faulconbridge of Western Seeds said that all seed has to be certified, which means a huge amount of paperwork.
“Before Brexit, seed was certified the same as EU and we could trade in the EU. However, now the EU will not recognise the UK certification process of seed, even though it has not changed,” he said.
“So we cannot market seeds into Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland.”
Recent equivalence for certification of seed, he said, is a step forward but phytosanitary issues remain.
“This means it has to go through stringent testing, which only lasts 10 days. So if we want to sell a seed mixture, each seed variety in that must be tested, and the certification only lasts 10 days.
“We have been told it could be months before we can export normally.”
A spokesperson for Cotswold Seeds said smaller seed companies affected most by the increased paperwork: “It used to be very straightforward to export seed to Ireland but now it is very complicated. For a company like ours it’s almost prohibitive.”
For Cork dairy farmer and organic cheese producer Frank Shinnick, it means he has no suitable seed to sow.
Frank converted his Fermoy farm organic over the past five years, reducing cow numbers from 100 to 50, as he turned to growing all his own feed.
“We were always growing kale and other fodder crops as we had winter milk and we were producing a lot of raw milk,” he says. “With kale you can get the cows out for a couple of hours every day — it’s great for the man and the cows.”
He uses a seed mixture of kale, rape seed and stubble turnips — from Western Seeds.
“We nearly have half the farm in herb lays and the cows much prefer this. We have no bloat problem from it and no nitrogen going out; 15ac of combi crop would feed the 50 cows for the winter and save me buying any ration. I needed about 10ac of herb mix.
“I needed to plant the herb lays two weeks ago. I ordered in on January 10 and am still optimistic that we will get it. If I don’t, I will have to buy barley, oats and peas and mix it myself but it won’t be as good,” he says.
“Western seeds are decades old and have been breeding these seeds for that length. If I have to buy conventional seeds, they will need fungicides and it won’t be organic.”