49% of farmers see competition from other carbohydrates such as pasta and rice as one of the biggest challenges facing the potato industry.

Among the other major challenges to the sector listed were price, competition from imports and the loss of plant protection products.

These results came from a poll taken to gauge the feeling in the industry and see what challenges farmers are most concerned about going forward at the National Potato Conference on Tuesday, February 18, organised by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), Teagasc and Bórd Bia.

The results of the poll can be seen throughout the article below. It should be noted that attendees were allowed to pick more than one option when taking the poll.

What in your opinion is the biggest threat to the Irish potato industry into the future?
  • Competition from other carbohydrates such as pasta or rice – 49%;
  • Competition from imports – 17%;
  • Loss of plant protection products – 15%;
  • Supermarket domination of retail sales – 9%;
  • Over reliance on the variety Rooster – 6%;
  • Reliance on imported seed – 4%;
  • Brexit – 0%.

Finding a solution to the competition from pasta and 52% of attendees thought that more education was needed about nutrition, basic cooking skills and the value of potatoes in schools.

More social media and TV and radio exposure were also thought to be needed to promote potatoes, while 30% of farmers thought testimonials on potatoes from celebrities may also play a part in promotion.

An underwhelming 4% of respondents thought that they can do more to promote the product themselves.

What are the three most important activities the industry can undertake to improve the promotion of potatoes?
  • More education in schools – 52%;
  • More use of social media articles – 48%;
  • More exposure on TV and radio – 46%;
  • Testimonials from celebrities – 30%;
  • In-store promotion – 22%;
  • It’s Bórd Bia’s job to do it so let them do it – 13%;
  • I can do more myself – 4%.

Adapting the ‘spud’

34% of participants in the poll thought that the industry needs to make potatoes easier and quicker to prepare, while 25% stated that more modern recipes are needed. 23% also thought that more varieties need to be grown apart from Roosters.

Consumer trends are changing in how we buy and eat potatoes, how can the industry adapt to these changes?
  • Make potatoes easier and quicker to prepare – 34%;
  • Use of more modern recipes – 25%;
  • Use different ware varieties instead of just Rooster – 23%;
  • Look at alternative markets e.g. convenience foods, fresh chip, salads – 19%;
  • No need to change, sales are growing – 0%.

Decline in planted area

2019 saw approximately 8,000ha of potatoes planted in this country. That’s the second lowest area of potatoes planted since records began.

41% of participants in the poll attributed this decline to price pressure at grower level, while 37% stated there was a lack of market opportunities.

The area of potatoes planted has declined over the last 10 years. What is the main reason in your opinion?
  • Price pressure at grower level – 41%;
  • Lack of market opportunities – 37%;
  • Competition for land – 9%;
  • Young farmers aren’t interested – 9%;
  • Change in weather patterns – 4%.