Minister insists cricket pitch soil can be traded freely after Brexit

UUP MLA John Stewart, President of the Northern Cricket Union (NCU) Roger Bell, NCU Grounds Committee Member Michael...

(left to right) UUP MLA John Stewart, President of the Northern Cricket Union (NCU) Roger Bell, NCU Grounds Committee Member Michael Kennedy and NCU Cricket Operations Manager Uel Graham on the crease of Carrickfergus Cricket Club. The special cricket pitch soil used for generations may have to be dug up and replaced due to the Northern Ireland Protocol, according to a groundsman. - Credit: PA

Stormont’s agriculture minister has said special cricket pitch soil can be freely moved from Great Britain to Northern Ireland under Brexit rules.

The clay-containing material known as loam can be obtained from counties in England to help give the ball a predictable bounce on the pitch.

Northern Ireland Protocol bureaucracy has caused problems for suppliers sending a range of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

But Edwin Poots said: “Despite recent comments and media reports, I can confirm that loam products, because of their low risk, are not regulated and therefore can be moved from Great Britain to Northern Ireland free from SPS sanitary and phytosanitary requirements.

“Unfortunately, recent commentary has caused a lot of unnecessary concern amongst the cricketing family, but I am pleased to add some clarity to the matter.”


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He said Surrey Loam is a manufactured product used for stabilising cricket wickets, usually at the end of the season.

The product is clay and sand based and is not capable of harbouring EU quarantine pests, Poots’s Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Department said.

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It added: “As such it does not come under the official control requirements that apply to soil when presented as a growing medium.”

A ban on importing plants potted in soil from Great Britain to the region has been temporarily lifted.

Poots said: “I acknowledge the UK government announcement of 4 March, providing easements on the wider movement of soil as a growing medium, enabling the movement of bulbs, vegetables and containerised plants within the horticulture sector.

“This will provide some welcome breathing space for businesses, however it is clear that the Northern Ireland Protocol continues to cause concern among Northern Ireland businesses, and I will continue to push the UK government and EU to find permanent solutions to the issues it presents.”

A groundsman in Northern Ireland had earlier expressed fears cricket pitch soil used for generations may have to be dug up and replaced due to the Protocol.

Northern Ireland follows the EU’s rules on trade to prevent a hard border on the island.

The Protocol has prompted a backlash from unionists who believe it threatens Northern Ireland’s integral place in the UK internal market.

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