IFA National Potato Committee Chairman Thomas Carpenter said potato growers are facing wipeout if a viable price is not achieved for their product. At meetings in recent days, retailers and merchants were challenged by potato growers to return a viable farmgate price.
He said, “Prices to producers are at historical lows and running well below the cost of production on all potatoes sold. Retailers and merchants must return a viable price that delivers a margin if growers are to remain in business.”
After a season of over production in 2010, which resulted in the export of close to 70,000 tonnes of potatoes, Irish potato growers made a conscious business decision to reduce the national planted acreage by up to 13%. After a favourable growing season and higher than normal yields created a short term over supply in the industry, Irish potato production was back by an estimated 60,000 tonnes which would suggest that the market is more in balance than in oversupply.
Thomas Carpenter said, “Below-cost selling of potatoes is not a sustainable practice as it leads to reduced prices to the producer in most cases. Large retail multiples sell up to 60% of fresh potatoes grown in Ireland and therefore have significant control in this sector. Retailers, as key stakeholders in the food supply chain, have a responsibility to their growers and to the future of the industry in this country. The increase in energy and fuel costs is adding to the income pressure on farmers.”
The IFA National Potato Committee will be holding an emergency meeting of all potato growers early in the New Year to discuss this serious issue.