AGM Chairman’s Report for 2012-13, Thursday 28 November 2013




Ladies and Gentlemen


Welcome to the forty second Annual General Meeting of the Association, held again this year in Harrogate in conjunction with the Potato Council’s British Potato 2013. As in past years we are grateful to the Council for making the Press Room here at Harrogate available for our AGM.

Our membership has shown a small increase this year and we now have 45 full members and 15 associate members.

As in past years, the Association has been consulted by the Scottish Government, by Defra and by the Potato Council Ltd on a number of seed issues and our office bearers have attended a number of meetings on your behalf. Earlier this year we were consulted by the Council on its proposal to fund research on potato blackleg. I met with members of the Council’s R and D committee and emphasised the importance of controlling infection during the multiplication of early generation seed. Later in today’s meeting Professor Ian Toth of the James Hutton Institute will bring us up-to-date with work on this project.

In addition to this Council funded work on blackleg, four of our members, Middleton Rosefarm, Craggie Farms, J S Cruickshank and Whitewater Potatoes have been involved in the collection of samples of growing crop and on the harvester for Pectobacterium analysis. We await the findings.

Following last year’s Seed Event at Crieff, Bill Rennie and I attended the annual meeting of the UK Consultative Panel where we discussed a range of certification and plant health issues. This year’s meeting of the Panel will be held here at Harrogate Pavilion later this afternoon and Bill and myself will be attending.

Work continues on the revision of Annexes I and II of the EU Seed Potato Marketing Directives and we have had several meetings with John Kerr of SASA on this subject. We have also been consulted by the Scottish Government on its review of fees for UK National Listing and Plant Breeders Rights.

The Association is one of the relatively few industry organisations consulted by the Scottish Government on seed potato issues with the opportunity to contribute to consultations, and to influence their outcome; this is taken seriously by your committee on behalf of the membership.

We held our usual February committee meeting at Kincraig near Aviemore. Thanks again to Dr John Anderson & his wife Frances for providing the venue and their hospitality.

The main summer study visit, attended by 18 Association members, was made in late June to the North Calais Region of France centred in Arras to look at early generation seed production in the 11,000 hectares controlled by the Comite Nord. This proved to be a very valuable and interesting visit looking at mini tuber production, disease control and certification arrangements in an area that has seen a significant expansion in recent years. We are very grateful to our hosts Desmazieres for arranging the various visits and for their excellent hospitality while we were in France.

A second field study visit was made in mid-July when over 30 members of the Association accepted the invitation of McCain Potatoes to look at a range of field trials and seed production fields near Montrose. This event was the third successive annual visit organised by the Association that came about on the back of the issues growers were having with Erwinia. The get together provides a venue for growers to discuss how the growing season crops are progressing and any issues they are having. We are grateful to Colin Herron and Rob Scott of McCain for hosting what was another excellent visit. The visit was supported by Eric Anderson of Scottish Agronomy, Matt Smallwood of SRAC and by John Kerr, Denise A’Hara and Maureen McCreath of SASA. Their attendance encouraged wide ranging discussions.

Your committee has decided that this year the Association’s Dr James Hardie Memorial Award will go to Hamish Cameron of Highland Potatoes Ltd, based in the Blackisle. Hamish has been growing early generation seed since the early days of VTSC material and has been a strong supporter of the Association almost since its inception. The award was presented to Hamish at last night’s Industry Dinner. Highland Potatoes Ltd continue producing this High Grade material with the next generation following in Hamish’s footsteps under his expert eye.

The Association’s website has recently been updated to show current office bearers and committee members, information on recent Dr Hardie Awards and my chairman’s report for the past year. Ideas on future topics for the website will be welcome.

John Kerr of SASA continues in his role as technical adviser and I should like to thank him and his many colleagues from SASA for their continued guidance and technical support. John plays a leading role in EU committees involved in reviewing the Seed Potato Marketing Directive and we value the opportunity to contribute here. As always, we are grateful for the excellent working relationship we have with John Speirs and his Scottish Government colleagues in Saughton House. And I am especially grateful for the support I have received from my committee over the past year. I look forward to a further year as chairman of the Association.

For your information our current committee members are: Mike Wilson as vice chairman, Craig Bartlet, Ian Fordyce, Andrew Skea, Sandy MacGowan, Alistair Redpath and Rob Scott. All are eligible for re-election.

We still have a few Association ties available for sale. If you don’t yet have one see Bill Rennie after this meeting.

Thank you for your attendance at today’s AGM.