Ayrshire new potatoes are to be granted protected geographic indication (PGI) status by the EU at the end of the month, after a three- year campaign to be given the status. 

The potatoes, also known as Ayrshire Earlies, will be one of 15 listed PGIs in Scotland and includes Scotch whisky, Stornoway Black Pudding and Scottish salmon. 

Ayrshire Earlies are the very first potatoes of the Scottish season, and are naturally small with a delicate skin. They are sold with the soil still on them in order to protect them. Their unique growing conditions of sandy soil which together with the Gulf Stream ensure a warm, frost-free, environment, gives them a unique skin and flavour compared to potatoes harvested later.

The PGI status of Ayrshire new potatoes is limited to immature potatoes of the Solanum tuberosum species of the Solanaceae family grown in the county of Ayrshire. They must be planted, grown and harvested within the defined geographical area (the areas of North Ayrshire, East Ayrshire and South Ayrshire councils). 

The PGI status only protects the Ayrshire name between May to the end of July to cover the ‘early’ status.  The early varieties produce a unique fluffy skin, but after July, they have a set skin like other potatoes and are not covered with the PGI after this period.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: "This is great news for Ayrshire potato growers, particularly given the current uncertainty for the industry being caused by Brexit. 

"Scotland has an unrivalled global reputation for quality food and drink produced from our own natural larder. 

"PGI status not only helps protect the provenance of products like Scotch whisky, Stornoway Black Pudding and Arbroath smokies but also assures consumers at home and abroad that they can trust the product they are buying, and ensures that the right expertise, ingredients and methods of production are being used. 

"I'm delighted that Ayrshire Earlies are the latest fine Scottish product to benefit from that protection.

"My congratulations to the Girvan Early Growers for making this happen." 

Andrew Young, of Girvan Early Growers, who was one of the main drivers behind the push for protected status said: "The Ayrshire potato growers are delighted to have achieved PGI status, to protect a product that is over 120 years old. 

"It is good to be recognised the same way as so many other high quality food and drink items are, and we hope that it will help to secure the future of potato growing in Ayrshire by assuring customers they are buying a genuine article with provenance, quality and flavour." 

The current system of EU geographical indications ensures only products from a particular region can be badged as such and prevents them from being imitated by others

PGI status is given to regional food products across the EU that have a specific quality, reputation or other characteristic attributable to the area they’re grown or made in, and ensures they are legally protected from imitation throughout the EU. It can also help promote the product and the area they are grown in.