Early signs of a good season for Irish potatoes

Issues with the quality of Irish potatoes seen in recent years due to wet weather should not be an issue this year, according to Mike Neary, director of horticulture for Bord Bia. “Last year was a difficult challenge, but we expect going forward the quality should be good this year,” Neary told Agriland at an event to launch National Potato Day on 23 August.

More than 90 per cent of potatoes consumed in Ireland are home-grown, but restaurant owner and chef Pol O’Hearnach is using Marquis Potatoes imported from France at his Dublin restaurant Bloom Brasserie.

“Marquis are more expensive but consistent. I tried using Irish potatoes in the past but the consistency was not there. In the end customers were complaining so I had to switch,” O’Hearnach explained.

2012 was a difficult year for potato farming in Ireland due to heavy rainfall in the summer. The potato yield was down by 30 per cent, according to Bord Bia. “That created challenges in terms of getting crops out of the ground and preventing damage and bruising,” said Neary. “This year we’ve had it a bit different because spring’s colder so crops are a little bit later so that’ll impact on yield, but early indication is that the yield is good quality.”

Last year 245,000 tonnes of potatoes were produced in Ireland, with 175,000 tonnes being consumed in Ireland. The retail value for potato sales last year was €165m, but Neary is wary of research carried out by Bord Bia showing a drop in the consumption of potatoes in 22 to 44 year olds to two to three portions per week.

Neary believes a new approach to how potatoes are marketed is required to “show these consumers the more exotic side of the potato, and to teach people they can use it in ethnic foods”.

Bord Bia are currently supporting National Potato Day on 23 August, with events around the country organised to highlight the nutritional value and versatility of potatoes. Details can be found here.

By Colm McGlinchey

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