The area of potatoes planted in 2019 was the second lowest on record, after 2018, which was the lowest on record. There was also a further decrease in the plantings of traditional varieties such as Kerr’s Pink and Golden Wonders.

Speaking at the recent National Potato conference in Dublin IFA president Tim Cullinan said farmers continue to be the poor relation within the supply chain. He outlined how retailers are taking the lion’s share of the margin on potatoes, while farmers bear all of the risk.  

“Growers are coming under increased pressure due to rising input and storage costs and the continued decrease of phytosanitary products available. 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,” he said.

The IFA president said retailers have a dominant position in the food chain.  IFA wants the Government to introduce a retail ombudsman who will have strong independent oversight and regulation of the sector. 

“There is provision in EU legislation on Unfair Trading Practices for an independent retail regulator, but this has to be transposed into Irish law. This was a priority during Commissioner Hogan’s tenure in Agriculture and we want to see it implemented without delay,” he said. 

IFA Potato chairman Thomas McKeown said growers make an investment of €60m each year to grow Ireland’s 20,411 acres of potato and ensure a top-quality product is consistently available to packers, supermarkets, and the food service sector.

In return, processors and retailers who rely on their product must return to them a fair price and stop undermining the market with surplus imports. 

Bord Bia in conjunction with IFA and IPF were successful in their application for a second EU potato promotion fund. Ireland is now partnered with organisations in Belgium and France along with Europatat. This campaign will focus on millennials and has an overall budget of €1.95 million. 

Lorcan Bourke, fresh produce & potato manager, Bord Bia, said: “Today’s National Potato conference positions the potato as the ‘Food of the Future’, celebrating the crop’s many benefits including its high nutritional content and its natural sustainability credentials.

“These themes will feature in the wider EU campaign, as we know that these are issues important to our target audience of 18-34 year olds”. 

The research presented at this conference will show just how important potatoes are to retailers; Thomas McKeown said. The Kantar World figures show that potatoes are bought once every second in Irish retailers.

When potatoes are included in the shopping basket, grocery trips are worth €26.10 more than the average.