Following a meeting of potato industry stakeholders to discuss the best way forward for the industry. Potato packers, merchants and producers agreeing that a promotions and marketing campaign is needed to address the continual decline in potato consumption.

UFU deputy president Ivor Ferguson said:“There is an urgent need to address the challenges being faced by potato producers. With potato consumption down and farmers producing at a loss after having just come through a very difficult year, a potato promotion and marketing campaign is urgently needed to increase the consumption of potatoes and generate a return that will cover the cost of producing them.”

Earlier this year, the UFU participated in a potato industry meeting in the Republic of Ireland, were they had indicated their intentions to progress with a similar initiative that would address the decline in potato consumption, he said.

“We had hoped to join with them on a wider promotional campaign but unfortunately due to the timeline involved this is currently not possible although it hasn’t been ruled out for the future. The potato industry in NI is still however keen to undertake its own promotional campaign and we are pleased that industry stakeholders have agreed to do so. We are proposing that from the 1st of January 2015 a voluntary levy, similar to that being paid in the RoI, will be collected from potato producers which will be match funded in some form by packers/processors.

“The levy paid by potato producers will be based upon their area of potatoes grown in 2014 and from initial discussions it is hoped that with both producers and packers contributing, additional support from Government will be provided.”

Work is now underway to ensure that this proposal is operational by 1st January 2015. The 2014 Potato Conference, jointly organised by the UFU, CAFRE, DARD and AFBI, will be held this December and it is hoped that by then more detailed proposals will be in place for the initiative to get underway.