Consumers in the Irish Republic will be forced to pay more for their potatoes over the next few months, the Irish Farmers’ Association has warned.
According to the chairman of its potato committee, John Sheridan, supplies of last year’s crop are running out while the arrival of the bulk of early potatoes will be delayed because of bad weather.
He estimated that between merchants and growers, only 45,000 tonnes from last year’s crop remained in store.
“With 10 weeks still left in the current season, demand will soon outstrip supply,” he said, adding that, in theory, this should mean improved returns for growers - and higher prices for the consumer. “The IFA is urging
growers with quality product in their stores to demand higher returns in the market.”
The warning came as Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority, reported that this year’s crop had been badly hit by frost, particularly in the Irish midlands. The arrival of the early crop of Home Guard was likely to be delayed, it said, and the weather could also hold up planting of the main crop.
Changing lifestyles and eating habits have combined to remove the potato from the pre-eminent place it once held in the Irish national diet. That shift is reflected in a sharp reduction in the scale of the country’s potato production.
According to Sheridan, the number of growers in Ireland has fallen to 730 from 1,700 in 1994, while the total acreage planted is down to 31,000 from 39,000 over the same period - and both are still declining.
In addition to social and lifestyle changes, he said supermarkets were to blame for the potato’s loss of popularity.
“They use potatoes as loss leaders and virtually give them away,” he claimed. “Unfortunately, the groceries order, which bans below-cost selling, does not apply to potatoes.”
Anthony Garvey