Ring rot, a disease extremely damaging to potato crops, has been found in a consignment due for the Canary Islands

The potatoes were being checked as part of the annual survey for ring rot and were located in a farm in Wales, and the source of infection is now under investigation. Defra says that action is being taken to prevent any spread of the disease from the infected farm and to trace any related potato stocks. British growers have also pledged to contain and eradicate an outbreak of the highly contagious disease, said the NFU.

If the disease were to establish itself, then yield losses could be very serious. In addition, the seed export market is a very important one for potato seed growers in England and Wales and this would be at risk if Britain lost its ring rot-free status

Graham Nichols, Vice Chairman of NFU Horticulture, representing potatoes, said: ‘While this outbreak of potato ring rot is of great concern, it must be remembered that this is a one-off outbreak that has been caused by the use of imported seed.

‘We will be doing our utmost to ensure it is contained and eradicated. We will be working closely with the authorities and will be encouraging growers to stick to all the guidelines to minimise the risk of spreading the infection.

Defra also said that Dutch authorities are being contacted to identify other UK locations to which seed of the same variety and origin may have gone. The department also said that buyers of any potatoes from the affected farm will be traced and the relevant authorities informed.