We are just six weeks away from the 2022 World Potato Congress (WPC). The event will be centred in Dublin and hopefully will given a boost to the reputation of potatoes.
However, planned trips to farms and potato processing businesses will provide the 800+ attending delegates with a unique opportunity to gauge the scope of the potato sector across this island.
It all adds up to an amazingly good news story for potatoes.
Poor weather, increasing production costs and not-so-exciting retail prices, have all combined to put extreme pressure on potato grower margins over recent years.
But by far the biggest challenge confronting the industry is the continuing poor image which potatoes ‘enjoy’ in the minds of many consumers. This is a state-of-affairs that is totally unjustified.
Merits of potatoes
The potato remains one of the most natural foods that we can eat. If consumed with its jacket on, it represents one of the most valuable sources of nutritional fibre. Potatoes also contain more vitamin C than oranges.
By definition, the potato is a vegetable. Yet, nutritionists continue to regard ‘spuds’ as a source of starch only. In other words, potatoes are not included in the list of fruit and vegetables that we are expected to consume on a daily basis as part of a balanced diet.
By way of contrast, it’s worth considering developments that have taken place within the dairy sector over the past number of years.
30 years ago, butter was considered to be one of the worst possible foods that we could include in our diet. It was full of fat and cholesterol. However, revisionist thinking (brought to bear over the past four to five years) has changed all of that.
Celebrity chefs and nutritionists now champion the cause of butter, referring to it as one of the most natural foods that we can eat.
Such was the consumer response to these developments that demand for butter spiked, leading to an uplift in milk prices that has been enjoyed ever since by every Irish dairy farmer.
Meanwhile, potatoes continue to suffer from an image that does this unique food source no favours at all.
Even if considered as a carbohydrate source only, they have something which the likes of rice and pasta will never have… taste. To say that potatoes need an image makeover is an understatement of some magnitude.
The good news is that a lot of the ground work on this issue has already been done. Many Irish packers have done a lot to make fresh potatoes more versatile, when it comes to preparing them for the table.
But they can’t be expected to do all of the heavy lifting promotional work on their own. So let’s hope the upcoming WPC will help this cause.