8,000ha of potatoes are currently grown in Ireland. This is the second lowest area planted on record and is unlikely to change according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Potato farmers invest €60 million into their businesses each year, but the farm-gate price of potatoes “must rise if we are to have a potato industry in the future” according to Tim Cullinan, president of the IFA.

Opening the National Potato Conference Cullinan stated that: “Growers are coming under increased pressure due to rising input and storage costs and the continued decrease of phytosanitary products available.

“That situation cannot be sustained; the price the farmer gets has to rise, just to cover storage costs alone. Retailers and packers have to wake up to that and act now if they want to have a potato industry in the future.”

The IFA also stated that retailers have a dominant position in the food chain and the organisation wants the Government to introduce a retail ombudsman who will have strong independent oversight and regulation of the sector.

“There is provision in EU legislation on Unfair Trading Practices for an independent retail regulator, but this has to be transposed into Irish law. This was a priority during Commissioner Hogan’s tenure in agriculture and we want to see it implemented without delay.”

Cullinan also highlighted the concern about the weather and heavy rain of late. He acknowledged the struggles that all farmers currently face and the plight of potato farmers who have struggled to get 2019’s crop out of the ground.

Retailers must return a fair price

IFA potato chairperson Thomas McKeown said growers make an investment of €60m each year to grow Ireland’s 20,411ac of potatoes and ensure a top-quality product is consistently available to packers, supermarkets, and the food service sector.

He stated that: “In return, processors and retailers who rely on their product must return to them a fair price and stop undermining the market with surplus imports.”

The National Potato Conference has just got underway at The Red Cow Moran Hotel, Dublin and is hosted by the IFA, Teagasc and Bórd Bia.

Stay tuned to AgriLand for more on the conference.