Scotland business

Move to protect identity of Ayrshire new potatoes

Ayrshire early new potatoes Image copyright Scotty Brand
Image caption Ayrshire new potatoes could join more than 70 UK food and drink products with PGI status

Ayrshire new potatoes are in line to have their identity protected under European law.

The UK government has applied for the county's new potatoes and the "Ayrshire earlies" brand to be granted Protected Geographical Indicator (PGI) status by Brussels.

The proposal was put forward by a growers' group based in Girvan.

If successful, Ayrshire new potatoes would join more than 70 UK food and drink products with PGI status.

These include Arbroath smokies and Stornoway black pudding.

Only three other types of potato in the UK, including the Jersey Royal, already have the status.

In November, applications were also lodged for Dundee cake and Forfar bridies to be protected.

Consultation

The Ayrshire application went through a Scottish government consultation last year, without objections being lodged.

The application cites evidence of commercial potato farming in Ayrshire as far back as 1793.

The sandy soil and milder weather made it ideal for early sowing and early harvests, with potatoes typically getting to market within seven days of harvesting.

Farmers traditionally used seaweed from Ayrshire beaches as fertiliser, and manure from local dairy farms.

From 1859, they adopted growing practices learned in Jersey. The following year, the trade was helped by a rail link from Girvan to Glasgow.

In 1918, records show a peak of potato farming in the county, with 11,400 acres under potatoes.

The protected status application says that in 1951, the main occupation in the town of Maybole was in South Ayrshire early potatoes - planted in February, and harvested from early May until the end of July.

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