UK potato growers have pledged to contain and eradicate an outbreak of the highly contagious disease potato ring rot found on a farm in Wales. The bacterial disease is believed to have been brought into the UK - previously a rot-free zone - on infected Dutch seed.
According to the National Farmers' Union, the disease has the potential to devastate crops, something that would have serious implications for snack manufacturers. The bacterium c lavibacter michiganensis sepedonicus - which causes the disease - was detected during the annual survey for ring rot carried out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). A Defra statement said: "Action is being taken to prevent any spread of the disease from the infected farm, and to trace any related potato stocks."
UK officials say that Dutch authorities are being contacted in an effort to identify other areas of the UK to which seed of the same variety and origin could have gone. In addition, buyers of any potatoes from the affected Welsh farm will be traced and the relevant authorities informed.
Manufacturers of potato-based snacks have a right to be concerned. UK Government officials have stated that annual losses from ring rot in the US have been as high as 50 per cent. The source of the UK infection is still under investigation.
Graham Nichols, vice chairman of NFU horticulture 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."
The NFU and NFU Cymru have been in close talks with Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government on the issue in recent days. The union has stressed that this disease presents no risk to human health.