Registering Ayrshire Early New Potatoes/Ayrshire Earlies under the EU Protected Food Name (PFN) Scheme: consultation

Consultation to register as a product of protected geographical indication under the EU Protected Food Name Scheme.

Consultation Document


"Ayrshire Early New Potatoes" / "Ayrshire Earlies "

PDO ( ) PGI ( )


Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
EU Food Policy Team - Food and Policy Unit
Nobel House
17 Smith Square
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)207 238 6075


Name: Girvan Early Growers


Grangestone Industrial Estate
KA26 9PY

Tel: +44 (0)1465 715 328
Fax: +44 (0)1465 715 700

Composition: Producers/processors ( ) Other ( § )


Class 1.6 - Fruit, vegetables and cereals fresh/processed


(summary of requirements under Article 7 of Regulation ( EC) No 1151/2012)

4.1 Name:

"Ayrshire Early New Potatoes" / "Ayrshire Earlies"

4.2 Description:

Ayrshire Early New Potatoes / Ayrshire Earlies are the name given to immature potatoes of the Solanum tuberosum species of the Solanaceae family grown in Ayrshire, Scotland.

The potato has the following characteristics: It is small in size, 15 - 70mm diameter, due to the young age. The potato is round or oval in shape with a soft skin and distinctive strong earthy nutty flavour and aroma. It has a creamy texture and is a bright white colour which is consistent throughout the potato.

Ayrshire Early New Potatoes are grown from the basic seed varieties catalogued in the national registers of varieties of the Member States of the EU.

Ayrshire Early New Potatoes are sold to local markets, retailers, supermarkets and potato wholesalers throughout the UK. The potatoes are sold either loose or in trays/bags of various weights according to customer requirements. The first crop is harvested in May and is 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.

Ayrshire Early New Potatoes are harvested from the beginning of May until the end of July. Potatoes harvested after this period are called main crop potatoes.

Ayrshire Early New Potatoes must be planted, grown and harvested in the defined geographical area and no later than 31 st July.

4.3 Geographical area:

The region of Ayrshire in the West of Scotland within the geographic Local Authority boundaries of North and South Ayrshire Councils.

4.4 Proof of origin:

From seed

Seed potatoes maintain full traceability from their source, to their arrival on farm and traceability is maintained throughout the growing, harvesting, processing and sale of the potatoes ensuring complete full traceability from "field to fork".

On farm

Immediately post-harvest, before the potatoes leave the farm, each batch of potatoes, is allocated a unique number which makes reference to the date and field of harvest and the name and address of the Ayrshire farm from which it came. This information is available to processors.

Post farm packaging and distribution

Ayrshire Early New Potatoes / Ayrshire Earlies are sold to local markets, retailers, supermarkets and potato wholesalers throughout the UK. The potatoes are sold either loose or in trays/bags of various weights according to customer requirements.

If further processing occurs, e.g. if potatoes from a 1 ton box are washed and put into the smaller packs of the weights mentioned above, each pack will be allocated a separate number which makes reference to the 1 ton box from which it came. Post farm assurance, including traceability is in line with British Retail Consortium Global Standard for Food Safety, or equivalent. This system is required to identify and trace product lots throughout all stages of processing and distribution to market. The system ensures that produce supplied to customers are adequately labelled or identified to facilitate traceability.

The quality control system used is capable of linking raw material lot codes through to finished product codes. This enables the finished product to be identified should the recall of a particular batch of raw material need to be instigated. The traceability system covers primary packaging (in direct contact with food), other relevant packaging materials such as printed outer packaging, and processing aids. Traceability of batches of products is able to link to any quality and residue test results. The system provides traceability "forwards" and "backwards" in both directions and the traceability system is tested at least annually in its entirety.

4.5 Method of production:

The growing of Ayrshire Early New Potatoes / Ayrshire Earlies has two pre planting elements, preparing the soil and preparing the seed, followed by dedicated and specialist planting, growing and harvesting management.

Soil Preparation

When soil temperatures are approaching 10°C, which is usually in the last two weeks of February, the soil is power harrowed to further break it down to make it as fine and free draining as possible. The soil is then ready for planting.

Seed preparation

Ayrshire Early New Potatoes / Ayrshire Earlies are grown from seed registered with the Seed Classification Scheme or equivalent. Seed potatoes are delivered to farm in the preceding autumn. They are stored in chitting houses, sheds with glass sides to allow light onto the seed to encourage sprouting, a process known as "physiological ageing". During this process the seed potatoes are placed in single layered boxes to enable light to reach each individual seed potato.

The chitting house is well ventilated to minimise the risk of disease and help prevent the temperature in the chitting house rising above 50°C. During cold weather, the vents are closed and heat is applied via gas or diesel fuelled space heaters, as required, to keep ambient air temperature in the chitting house above 10°C. By mid-February, after successful chitting seed potatoes will have a strong sprout of about 25mm.


The soil is pushed up into shallow drills and the potatoes are planted by hand or by machine. To achieve quick growth, the seed is planted under approximately 75mm of soil; with the same amount of soil underneath. These are shallower drills than normal, which enable quicker heating of the soil and allow swift emergence. The small size of Ayrshire Early New Potatoes at harvest, require shallow drills.

Post planting management

The plants emerge in mid-March. From the start of May until the end of July, the crop will be sprayed approximately every ten days to prevent potato blight. Due to the shallow drills, the plants are susceptible to drying out so close attention is paid to soil moisture levels and irrigation may be applied if available.


Following test digs, harvesting occurs from the beginning of May until the end of July. Initially, the "green tops" of the plants are cut off with a mechanical topper. The crop is either dug from the soil by mechanical lifters and picked off the ground by hand or harvested and lifted by one machine which separates soil and the potatoes are elevated into a trailer or potato box.

Ayrshire Early New Potatoes / Ayrshire Earlies are sold into local markets, retailers, supermarkets and to potato wholesalers throughout the UK. The potatoes are sold either loose or in trays/bags of various weights according to customer requirements.

4.6 Link & History:

Ayrshire has been at the heart of the Scottish (and indeed UK) potato industry since the cultivation of the crop was first reported in Scotland in a commercial basis in 1793. The area provides some of the first potatoes of the year grown in Scotland and the Ayrshire Early New Potatoes / Ayrshire Earlies are renowned across the country for their quality, flavour, and as a symbol of the new season.

The production of potatoes in Ayrshire was a source of employment for a large proportion of the population in the West of Scotland including local people and many migrant workers usually from Ireland known as "tattie howkers". Traditionally, seaweed, a nutrient-rich material widely available along the coastal region, was collected (a process known as "wrecking") and spread on fields in the winter as a fertiliser. Manure was also used from the livestock for which the area is known. Potatoes were planted by hand and harvested using a " graip", the traditional Scottish word for "fork".

Due to its light sandy soil, sheltered beaches and early warming by the Gulf Stream, farms in Ayrshire, and particularly along the Ayrshire coast have always been able to plant their crop a few weeks earlier than in other parts of Scotland. The original crop cycle was planting in June and lifting in mid-autumn.

In 1857 two Ayrshire farmers (Dunlop and Hannah), visited the Channel Islands (where farmers had been planting early crops for many years) to study how they managed to grow potatoes so early in the year. Two years later, after some experimentation, Ayrshire Earlies were grown and sold on a commercial basis. The industry was helped by the completion in 1860 of the railway line, which linked up Girvan with Glasgow. This provided the much needed transportation of both potatoes to Glasgow and beyond and to allow for the large quantities of manure required to fertilise the land to be delivered to the farms in the region (this was complimented by barge shipments from cattle transported from Ireland to Scotland). The train network also allowed potatoes to be lifted in the morning and on sale that afternoon in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

In 1881 a new method to help cultivate potatoes earlier called sprouting, was pioneered and this was taken up and implemented in the area by many Ayrshire farmers, thus allowing potatoes to be planted as early as February.

There is also a link with potato breeding in Ayrshire as Donald McKelvie, a Lamlash Grocer produced the many 'Arran' Potato varieties in the early 20 th Century. Many associate the variety "Epicure" with Ayrshire as well, though it was not bred here. Other modern varieties may be used as Ayrshire Early New Potatoes / Ayrshire Earlies as well as traditional ones.

Peak potato acreage in Ayrshire occurred in 1918, when 11,434.75 acres were grown. The harvesting process became more mechanised in the 1960s and fewer people were employed as a result.


Ayrshire potatoes have the long-standing reputation of marking the end of supply of old season potatoes and start of supply of new season potatoes. Many factors are said to have influenced the flavour of the Ayrshire Early New Potatoes / Ayrshire Earlies including light coastal soil, mild climate, fertilisers and speed of delivery to markets.

Press coverage has been recorded as early as 1857 when the North British Agriculturalist and Edinburgh Evening News mentioned potato production being "extensively practiced along the coast on the light and early soils". In the Parish of Maybole growing early potatoes was said to be the "main occupation" in 1951 according to John Strawhorn and William Boyd's The Statistical Account of Scotland. Heather Holmes described early potatoes as being "synonymous with the county of Ayrshire" and their production to be a "specialised and intensive branch of Ayrshire farming" in her book "Tattie howkers". In 1901, it was reported in the North British Agriculturalist that in Girvan, the potato was "a most important one (product) in the district". The book " Old West Kilbride" by Molly Blyth has the subtitle " The Tattie Toon" because of its close connection with potatoes as well. In August 2014, a Daily Record article said "Ayrshire in Scotland provides some of the finest new potatoes grown in Scotland".

Ayrshire Early New Potatoes / Ayrshire Earlies have been endorsed by famous chefs such as Jaqueline O'Donnell and Nick Nairn. Chef and cookery writer Christopher Trotter has expressed "There is nothing quite like an Ayrshire potato".

4.7 Inspection body:

Name: South Ayrshire Council Environmental Health


Burns House

Tel: +44 (0)1292 618222
Fax: +44 (0)1292 288755

4.8 Labelling:

Each box or bag of potatoes is marked with a farm identification number issued by North and South Ayrshire Councils which is specific to individual farms as specified at section 4.4.


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