Glasgow & West Scotland

Ayrshire early potato protected status bid

Ayrshire potatoes could be given the same protected status as Arbroath smokies and Stornoway black pudding.

Producers of Ayrshire early new potatoes - known as Ayrshire earlies - are to seek Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status.

If the bid is successful, only selected potatoes grown in the region and harvested between May to July could be branded as Ayrshire earlies.

Such a move could help raise awareness of the potatoes throughout Europe.

The application has been backed by both the UK and Scottish governments.

It has been worked on by the Ayrshire Growers Group, Girvan Early Growers, Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) and Albert Bartlett, who supply the potatoes through the Scotty Brand.

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

Paddy Graham-Jones, Albert Bartlett's technical and procurement director, said: "Ayrshire earlies are unique to Scotland and to Ayrshire. They have always heralded the arrival of summer. The smooth creamy texture and fresh flavour stem from the Ayrshire soil and climate and the skill and experience of the growers.

"These lovely little potatoes have to be appreciated in the short season they are available, and achieving PGI status will give this special Scottish potato the recognition it deserves."

First Minister Alex Salmond said: "Ayrshire early new potatoes are well sought after and achieving PGI status will provide a 100% guarantee of the product's authenticity for consumers at home and abroad."

He added that the EU's Protected Food Name scheme helped producers by "protecting their products from imitation" and was also a "great accolade and means we can promote them more effectively".

'Delicious meal'

Mr Salmond said: "If the bid is successful, the potatoes will join other distinctive Scottish products such as Scottish salmon, Orkney cheddar and Stornoway black pudding in becoming a protected food name.

"Put these together with others in the pipeline, like Dundee cake, and you could have a full delicious meal on Scotland's protected food names alone, all washed down by the product with the most protected name of the lot - Scotch whisky."

The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has previously fought for Arbroath smokies, Scottish salmon, Scottish beef and lamb and Stornoway black pudding to be given protected status.

The bid for Ayrshire earlies to become the latest such product is being backed by both UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael.

Mr Paterson said: "It's great news that Ayrshire early new potatoes are applying to become a Protected Geographical Indication. Defra will work closely with the region's farmers to ensure that this application is processed as soon as possible through our negotiations with the EU."

More on this story