The bid to grant Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status to Ayrshire early new potatoes has edged closer as the official consultation is now complete with no objections raised.
The Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) applied for Ayrshire new potatoes to be identified as a PGI product under the EU Protected Food Name Scheme last year.
The consultation period is now closed and the Scottish growers who initially put forward the proposal, are waiting with baited breath to see if Ayrshire Earlies get recognised, joining more than 70 other UK food and drink products with PGI status.
“We are just glad to see a product that is unique and over 100 years old being recognised and hopefully protected for the future,” Andrew Young, Girvan Early Growers Ltd chairman tells PBUK.
“If PGI status is granted, it means that the product will have protection, and will give customers security that they are purchasing the genuine product.”
Ayrshire New Potatoes/Ayrshire Earlies is the name given to immature potatoes of the Solanum tuberosum species of the Solanaceae family grown in Ayrshire, Scotland. The potato is small, (around 15 – 70mm diameter), due to the young age and is round or oval with a soft skin and distinctive strong earthy nutty flavour and aroma. It has a creamy texture with colour depending on the variety which is consistent throughout the potato.
They are harvested from the beginning of May until the end of July and must be planted, grown and harvested within the defined geographical area. The potatoes are sold to local markets, retailers, supermarkets and potato wholesalers throughout the UK, either loose or in bags of various weights.
When the first crop is harvested in May, it’s sold with the soil still on in order to protect the soft skin of the potatoes. As the season progresses the skin hardens sufficiently to allow washing.
The latest date for sales of the PGI product to final consumers (shoppers and restaurant customers) is the last day of July.
Although the history of the potatoes dates back to the late 1700s, it was in 1857 when two Ayrshire farmers (Dunlop and Hannah), visited the Channel Islands where farmers had been planting early crops for many years. They studied the growing techniques and two years later the first commercial Ayrshire Earlies were sold. By the turn of the 20th century, sales were boosted thanks to a rail link between Girvan and Glasgow.
The EU will only give a product the PGI mark if it decides it has a reputation, characteristics or qualities that are a result of the area it’s associated with.