Angry Irish potato growers, who said they were being denied talks on supply contracts by the management of the Superquinn chain, got on to 40 tractors last week and drove to the company’s flagship store in the Dublin suburb of Sutton.
One supplier, Edmund McAuley, from Balbriggan, Co Dublin, said: “They called the Gardai and threatened us with a court injunction, but we refused to move from the store car park until they agreed to talks.”
The growers had been alarmed by reports that the chain, recently taken over by Select Retail Holdings, an Irish business consortium, had opened negotiations with a new potato packer and was about to renege on supply agreements.
Potato farmers in Cos Meath and Dublin have been supplying Superquinn with 9,000 tonnes annually and half of that remains in storage. “We were very concerned we would be left holding thousands of tonnes of potatoes that we had grown for Superquinn,” said McAuley. “At €240 a tonne, a loss on that scale would be crippling.”
After a lengthy stand-off, the company agreed to accept the stocks, but emphasised that its supply contracts were with commercial packing firms and not with individual growers.
So far, despite meetings with the Irish Farmers’ Association, the retailer has not offered contracts for the new season.
“We’re being left in limbo,” said McAuley. “We’re already into the planting season, but we can’t plant because we don’t yet know if we will have a guaranteed market. You can’t afford to grow on spec.”
Anthony Garvey