The area of potatoes planted in 2019 was the second lowest on record, according to the IFA, ahead of only 2018. There has been a marked decrease in plantings of traditional varieties, including Kerr Pinks and Golden Wonders.
“Farmers continue to be the poor relation within the supply chain,” said Tim Cullinan, IFA president, speaking at the National Potato Conference on Tuesday 18 February.
“Growers are coming under increased pressure due to rising input and storage costs and the continued decrease of phytosanitary products that are available,” he said. Cullinan also outlined how retailers are taking the lion’s share of the margin on potatoes, while farmers bear all of the risk.
“That situation cannot be sustained, the price the farmer gets has to rise, just to cover storage costs alone,” he said.
He called on retailers and packers to “wake up and act now” if they want to preserve Ireland's future potato industry.
Cullinan also called for the next 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.
According to Thomas McKeown, IFA potato chair, growers make an investment of €60m each year to grow Ireland’s 20,411 acres of potato.
The IFA wants processors and retailers to return a fair price and stop undermining the market with surplus imports.