Opening the National Potato Conference, organised by IFA, Teagasc and Bord Bia, in Dublin today (Tues), IFA President Eddie Downey warned that potato production is under threat in Ireland because of a falling share of the consumer price for growers and rising input costs.
He said, “The current figures are simply unsustainable. Costs of production are running at over €200 per tonne, while the producer is receiving much less than this. Potato growers’ incomes are unviable and the farm gate price of the product must rise as the price they receive from the market is the most important factor in determining their incomes”.
“Today, the growers’ share is just 26% of the consumer price, which is down from 36% four years ago. It needs to be addressed immediately, if retailers want the security of supply of Irish potatoes available to the Irish consumer.”
The IFA President said the future of an industry worth over €80m at farmgate has to be secured. “The Government has a responsibility to deliver retail regulation which will restore equity to the food supply chain. Farmers are not getting the recognition or the reward for the investment involved in producing 370,000 tonnes of potatoes each year. Retailers will have to return a viable price to growers that cover their costs and gives them a margin. We have received numerous commitments from the Government on this issue; it is time for action.”
Eddie Downey said retailers had made a mockery of the work and value of fresh produce with their pre-Christmas campaign of using giveaway prices. Research from KANTAR to be presented today reveals that when potatoes are included in a shopping basket, these grocery trips are worth more than average, highlighting the importance of the potato category to retailers. Eddie Downey said retailers should realise that potatoes carry a value in the minds of consumers and this must be reflected in what growers are paid.
The conference will also hear about plans to spend €1m on a three-year promotion of potatoes, which will address consumer perceptions and drive demand.