Producing and distributing food – guidance

The Seed Potato Classification Scheme

How to apply for certification, the register of growers and fees for crop and tuber inspections under the SPCS.

Introduction

The Seed Potato Classification Scheme (SPCS) provides classification of all potatoes produced and marketed in England and Wales, depending on the class of the parent seed, and the health of the crop and tubers.

The aim of the SPCS is to provide assurance that seed potatoes delivered to buyers and growers meet specified minimum health and quality standards. In England and Wales, the SPCS is administered on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

Every EU member state operates certification schemes to ensure that all seed potatoes marketed within the EU are officially classified, and comply with regulations.

For further information, see Explanatory guide to the Seed Potato Classification Scheme and Approved Stock Scheme (PDF, 457KB, 21 pages)

How the SPCS works

The SPCS classifies all potatoes that are marketed in England and Wales. The SPCS inspects the quality of seed potatoes to protect purchasers and to ensure that seed potatoes meet the Seed Potatoes (England) Regulations 2015 and Seed Potatoes (Wales) Regulations 2016. The 2015 regulations implement the requirements of Council Directive 2002/56/EC on the marketing of seed potatoes. Seed potatoes imported into Great Britain must meet the criteria laid down in the Directive.

The inspections, tests and controls required by the SPCS are carried out by Plant Health and Seeds Inspectors (PHSI) in order to determine a seed potato’s:

  • health
  • trueness to variety
  • freedom from mixtures

When classified, seed potatoes are given a Union grade which is a harmonised grade allowing marketing throughout the EU, but only basic and pre-basic grades may be marketed within the protected regions of Scotland and the counties of Northumberland (excluding the districts of Blyth Valley and Wansbeck) and Cumbria (excluding the districts of Barrow-in-Furness and South Lakeland). In order to clarify whether your agricultural unit falls within the protected region, you should contact APHA on 01904 405 138.

Marketing and classification

The marketing of seed potatoes is defined as:

  • selling or holding, with a view to sale and offering for sale
  • any disposal, supply or transfer for the purpose of commercial exploitation of seed potatoes to third parties, whether or not for consideration - including seed potatoes given away without charge

In the UK, classified seed potatoes are derived from nuclear stock - which is tested and found free from quarantine organisms and certain other pathogens.

To be eligible for classification and therefore marketing, the parent stock of a seed crop must have been produced from classified seed of a variety included on the UK National List or the EC Common Catalogue. There are allowances for the marketing of small quantities of seed for test and trials purposes of varieties entered for, but not yet having achieved, National Listing.

There are a number of conditions that need to be met before such material can be marketed. For example, the owner of the variety must apply to the relevant certifying authority for approval to market such seed. You must make an application to APHA at the beginning of the growing season, which is then handled by the PHSI. You will also have to pay a fee for inspection of the crop and this is based on the area planted and the grade for which the crop is entered.

Seed potato crops must be entered for classification in one of three categories:

Pre-basic Basic grades Certified grade
PBTC (tissue culture) S A
PB (field grown) SE B
  E  

Pre-basic and basic seed is mainly intended for the production of seed crops, while certified seed is mainly intended for ware production.

Production and inspection

There are certain restrictions and requirements for the production of seed potatoes, for example:

  • the type of land used
  • agronomic requirements
  • health and purity standards for the various grades
  • the field generation of the parent seed

The PHSI inspects seed crops during the growing season and tubers during or after sorting and grading to ensure that the standards for disease and defects have been met. When you enter a crop into the SPCS it will receive a certificate after inspection, which shows if the crop:

  • met the standards at which it was entered as well as the standards of any lower categories
  • met only lower grade standards
  • failed outright

After certification, your crop can be marketed at the grade it achieved. The highest grade shown on the growing crop certificate will be the one published in the register of growers.

Application process and forms

If you are a grower or a holder of plant breeders’ rights, you can enter the SPCS by applying to APHA. You can enter self-produced crops as well as crops produced by others on their behalf.

You should submit your application to the local APHA office as soon as possible after the crop has been planted. Usually, application forms are automatically sent to known growers and applicants.

Alternatively, you can:

Each crop application must be accompanied by a label. This label is taken from the parent seed stock, except where the seed will be grown from a stock produced by the same applicant and grower, and for which no labels were issued. For online applications include a scan of the label.

Forms

The register of growers

When the seed potatoes inspection season closes, a register of growers is published that provides the names and addresses of all growers whose stocks have been granted growing crop certificates. These certificates show that the required standard of purity and health has been met.

The main standards for purity and health vary for each class of potato seed, and their classification is a result of official inspections during the growing season. However, this classification does not guarantee that the crops described will be marketed as the classes indicated.

When purchasing seeds, you should always check that the seed will be labelled at the grade you require. Defra and the Welsh Government will accept no liability for any losses incurred as a result of reliance on information contained in the register.

The register should be complete, but there is no guarantee that all growers and stocks will be included.

If you are a sole trader, you should indicate on your crop application form to exclude your name and address in the register. The register will still include your variety, area and grade.

The classification, labelling and marketing of seed potatoes in England is controlled by the Seed Potatoes (England) Regulations 2015 and the Seed Potatoes (Wales) Regulations 2016.

Register of stocks produced in England and Wales 2015

Summary of applications

Seed potato regulations

All seed potatoes marketed in England and Wales must be classified under the SPCS. The SPCS is designed to ensure that seed potatoes meet the standards specified by the Seed Potatoes (England) Regulations 2015.

These Regulations put into practice European Council Directive 2002/56/EC on the certification and marketing of seed potatoes. The Regulations also set out requirements for seed potato production, certification and marketing in England.

Directive 2008/62/EC encourages different, older conservation varieties of seed potato to be preserved, used and legally marketed. This Directive limits the quantity of seed potatoes of conservation varieties which may be marketed in EU member states each year.

These older varieties may not match contemporary varieties in terms of yield and disease resistance but they do have value in sustaining cultural and traditional practices. As a result of the popularity of conservation variety potatoes, their production, certification and marketing requirements are included in the Seed Potatoes (England) Regulations 2015.

All seed potato packages are also required to have a suppliers label attached. Under the SPCS, this takes the form of an official label.

Fees

You will have to pay fees for the crop and tuber inspections under the SPCS. These fees include the official labels and seals you will need.

You should not submit any fee along with your application. Instead, invoices for crop applicants are sent after the first field inspection and after the first marketing inspection, and you should wait until you receive this to pay the relevant fee.

Seed potatoes: fees (PDF, 10.1KB, 1 page)

Further information

Potato Council website

Season review 2015 (PDF, 163KB, 4 pages)