Irish farmers are warning that the potato industry is under threat due to surplus imports and rising costs.
Farmers have painted a bleak picture for the future of the spud. The area of potatoes planted in 2019 was the second lowest on record, beaten only by 2018.
Traditional varieties such as Kerr’s Pink and Golden Wonder have seen a further decrease in planting.
Bord Bia and the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) are set to launch a €1.95m campaign to reinvigorate the image of the spud, targeting millennials in particular. It is the second such campaign they have run.
The campaign will focus on the nutritional content of potatoes.
IFA president Tim Cullinan said farmers continue to be the poor relation in the supply chain, and that retailers take the lion’s share of the profit margin on potatoes despite farmers bearing all of the risk.
At the National Potato Conference, Mr Cullinan warned that big changes are needed to secure the future of the industry.
“Growers are coming under increased pressure due to rising input and storage costs and the continued decrease of phytosanitary [plant disease control] products available,” he said.
That situation cannot be sustained; the price the farmer gets has to rise, just to cover storage costs alone.
"Retailers and packers have to wake up to that and act now if they want to have a potato industry in the future.”
IFA has called for the introduction of a retail ombudsman who would oversee better regulation of the sector. Currently, potatoes are bought once every second in Irish retailers.
IFA potato chairman Thomas McKeown said growers invest €60m each year to grow some 20,411 acres of potato. He said shops must return a better price and stop undermining the market with surplus imports.