Ditching UK freight links may hurt Jersey Royal, say farmers

A SWITCH in the Island’s traditional freight links from UK ports to France post-Brexit could threaten the viability of Jersey’s biggest agricultural crop, farmers have warned.

Picture: WILLIAM CHURCH. (29246730)
Picture: WILLIAM CHURCH. (29246730)

For over a century, the Jersey Royal potato has been the mainstay of the farming industry and today around 30,000 tonnes are exported every year with a turnover of £35 million.

Last week, 22 SEPT External Relations Minister Ian Gorst suggested that new freight links to France could be established to replace existing routes to the UK after Brexit.

William Church, sales and marketing director of The Jersey Royal Company, the Island’s biggest potato exporter, said the UK had always been the key market.

‘They are the first British produce of the season, and one of only three traditionally recognised seasonal products left in the [British] calendar now, followed by asparagus and strawberries,’ he said.

‘We have sent samples to European retailers in the past, but nobody follows and understands the heritage of Jersey Royal new potatoes like the British public, so it would be nigh on impossible to replicate the success of that market in Europe.

‘While we have no objection to the Island looking into the opportunities of another southern trade route, the northern route remains fundamental to the export operation of Jersey Royal new potatoes.’

Speaking to the JEP last week, Senator Gorst said one of the key objectives after the UK severed its ties with Europe, would be to maintain the Island’s close historical relationship with France.

And, he added, disruption to supply routes from the UK caused by new border controls or tariffs could force Jersey to look south to keep the Island’s shelves stocked.

Jersey Farmers Union president Peter Le Maistre said: ‘There is nothing wrong with government trying to build business going southwards or importing goods from France but people have tried to do that before and it has never worked out.

‘The Jersey Royal crop has been completely tied into the UK for over a century because that is where our produce has traditionally gone and there is enough value from exporting the Jersey Royal to make a boat service viable for six months of the year.

‘I can’t see there being any potential for the Jersey Royal in Europe. It is an unknown product in France and it would take millions of pounds in marketing it to the French consumer and against established competition.

‘The volume of traffic will determine where Condor put their boats. I can’t see it changing very much after Brexit. If it did change it would create huge problems for farmers.’

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