Potatoes are the bedrock of the horticulture sector – Doyle

“Anywhere that we can see an opportunity to replace imports we must concentrate on.”

Speaking at the National Potato Conference on Tuesday (February 20), the Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture, Andrew Doyle, stated that consumers must “make a conscious choice to buy native Irish vegetables”.

He continued: “They’re fresh, they’re in season and they’re wholesome. They’re produced to the highest quality and standards.”

The minister complimented recent promotional campaigns for potatoes carried out by Bord Bia and the IFA (Irish Farmers’ Association). He added that “the potato has been much maligned at times”.

He explained that promotion, exposure, awareness and education are all important with ever more discerning consumer behaviour. Promotion has seen shoppers come to realise the value of the potato in their family meal and grocery shop.

Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture Andrew Doyle and IFA potato chairman Thomas McKeown

“People like to know where food is coming from.

It’s only right that vegetable and potato growers would stand up and defend their product, which is a good one. We can produce potatoes as well as anywhere in the world.

Challenges facing the sector

Very importantly, the minister acknowledged the challenges facing the industry and that the government is aware of the challenges facing potato farmers at present.

“Brexit may or may not have a negative impact,” the minister explained.

Minister Creed is conscious of the two-way street that sometimes people forget about and the importance of the Scottish market from the perspective of potato growers.

The minister also stated that research and promotions into different potato products is important.

“There has been a focus on salad potatoes in particular, which has gone well. The fresh chip potato is the next piece of work which offers potential,” he said.

Working together

The minister stated that the department will work with the different groups to help the potato sector.

“We need to do this together as opposed to going off on separate paths to try and achieve it. We can achieve stabilisation and restoration of the horticulture sector as a whole.

“Potatoes are the bedrock of the horticulture sector, market garden farms and beyond.

It is very important that we work together. The department is there to help in collaboration with Bord Bia, Teagasc and the IFA.