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19 June 2014, 06:00
A bid for Ayrshire potatoes to be given the same special status as Arbroath smokies and Stornaway black pudding is being backed by both the Scottish and UK governments.
Producers are expected to announce they are to apply for Ayrshire early new potatoes - also known as Ayrshire earlies - to be awarded Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status.
If successful, it would mean only selected potatoes, grown in the region and which were harvested in the period May to July, could be officially branded as Ayrshire earlies.
Such a move could help raise awareness of the potatoes throughout Europe.
The application 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.
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''.
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.''
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.''
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.''
He added: "The UK's iconic and unique regional food producers have been incredibly successful in supporting and protecting Protected Food Names: Scotch Beef and Lamb alone already contribute £78 million to the economy every year, much of this through export deals secured by the UK Government.''