Bord Bía has confirmed to Agriland that it is to join forces with the UK Potato Council in an attempt to secure €2.3 million of EU funding, which will be used  to generically promote fresh potato consumption over a three year period in both countries. These monies would be topped on a 1:1 basis by national contributions, bringing the total budget available to €4.6 million.

Bord Bía’s Mike Neary explains “We hope to formally submit our application to Brussels later this autumn. Ireland’s allocation of the envisaged spend will amount to €1 million. Of this, 50% will come from Brussels with the rest made up in equal measure by Bord Bía; growers, through the IFA; packers, through the Irish Potato Federation, and the Department  of Agriculture.”

He continued:“The origins of this project can be traced back to 2102 and the establishment of the Potato Promotions Group, under the aegis of Bord Bía. This work led to the setting up of the website, which has done a tremendous job in making Irish consumers aware of the tremendous value represented by home grown potatoes.

“The Group was also the driving force behind last August’s very successful National Potato Day.”

But while there was general agreement that both initiatives had served a useful purpose Mike Neary went on to confirm the recognition within the potato industry that something more long term and strategic would be required to effectively promote the Irish ‘spud’.

“The reality is that Brussels will make money available to fund the generic promotion of fresh produce. The case to the European Commission becomes all the stronger when countries join forces to co-operate on matters of this nature, hence our tie up with the UK Potato Council.”

Sales of fresh potatoes have fallen by 20% in Ireland over the past decade. Research carried out by Bord Bía confirms that the decline is most acute within the younger age groups, particularly the category of young couples yet to have children.

Mike Neary commented:“Potatoes are wrongly perceived by some people as a traditional food with a high fat content. Misconceptions around the issue of convenience is another factor that ranks highly in consumer surveys, where potatoes are concerned.

“The reality, however, is very much the opposite. Potatoes are now regarded as an exciting food ingredient across many facets of international cuisine. Moreover, spuds contain zero levels of fat. From the point of view of processers, giant steps have been taken to improve the convenience and versatility of potatoes as a meal option.”

“Preparations regarding the submission of our funding application are developing apace. We hope to formally apply to Brussels in the autumn. Assuming we get the green light next Spring, this should allow us to officially launch our three year campaign before the end of 2015.”