HC Deb 03 February 2004 vol 417 cc871-2W
Mr. Peter Robinson

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the costs are of equipment purchased to deal with potato ring rot in the last 12 months. [152217]

Mr. Pearson

I am aware that the recent finding of potato ring rot in Wales posed a significant threat to the potato industry, though no infected stocks of seed or ware potatoes have been identified in Northern Ireland.

Stringent preventative measures to minimise the risk of further spread are already in place. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has however increased its existing preventative actions, including: Checking and sampling of crops produced from GB seed potatoes in 2003; Further targeted sampling of GB seed potatoes due to be planted in Northern Ireland in 2004; Increased monitoring by inspectors at the ports of Belfast, Lame and Warrenpoint of all seed and ware potato imports; Increased inspections at premises of importers and processors, including inspections of stocks and checks on sources and reliability; and Meetings with stakeholder representatives and key industry individuals to provide scientific information on the disease and advice on new preventative measures.

The majority of costs associated with these additional measures are DARD staffs' time.

There is little need for equipment to deal with potato ring rot. DARD Science Service secured £6,500 in 2003 from budget to specifically address its laboratory diagnostic capacity following enhanced sampling by the Inspection Service and to accommodate any necessary emergency response to potato ring rot. This has enabled the provision of enhanced diagnostic capability within DARD for both classical and EU prescribed molecular diagnostic protocols in anticipation of an increased sampling regime for potatoes.