Potato growers are getting less than one-fifth of the price a consumer pays for their product in the shop, a conference in Dublin today heard.
Speaking at the National Potato Conference in Dublin, IFA President Joe Healy outlined how retailers are taking the lion’s share of the margin on potatoes, while farmers bear all of the risk.
The conference organised by the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) in association with Bord Bia and Teagasc, heard that pre-pack potatoes are retailing at up to €1,400 per tonne while growers receive less than one-fifth of that.
“Many potato growers are having to sell their crop for less than it costs to produce. 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,” Joe Healy warned.
The IFA President said stronger retail regulation and an independent retail ombudsman are needed to ensure farmers get a fairer share of the retail price, and to support a sustainable food supply chain. He said it is important that the recommendations of the Agricultural Markets Task Force are implemented to bring greater transparency and fairness to the food chain.
“Growers make an investment of €60m each year to grow Ireland’s 22,000 acres of potato and ensure a top quality product is consistently available to packers, supermarkets, and the food service sector. 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.”
Joe Healy said research to be presented at today’s conference will show just how important potatoes are to retailers. The Kantar Worldpanel figures show that when potatoes are included in the shopping basket, grocery trips are worth €27.90 more than average. Potatoes feature in one-in-ten shopping trips, and these trips contribute 23% of all retail sales.
Potato sales reach highest level in 10 years
The Kantar research indicates that the joint Irish and UK Potato Promotion Campaign running since 2015 to tackle a fall in potato consumption has been a success.
The figures show potato sales are at their highest level in the last 10 years, with €195m worth of potatoes sold last year, and a 20% increase in potato sales volume since 2013.
The research shows potatoes are bought once every second in Irish retailers – 208k tonnes of potatoes were sold in 2017 and 1.67m households purchase potatoes annually.
Speaking at the conference today, Lorcan Bourke, Fresh Produce and Potato Sector Manager, Bord Bia said that a €1 million EU-funded promotional campaign, managed by Bord Bia, had significantly helped to promote the sector in recent years. “We are aware that more potatoes have been sold as a direct result of the ‘Potatoes, More than a Bit on the Side’ campaign. Since 2014/2015, there has been a significant increase in the volume of potatoes bought by households, following a full decade of declining consumption.”
This year marks the third and final year of the campaign, however the potato industry has already discussed the possibility of a follow-on campaign given the positive consumer response to date.
“Educating consumers through this campaign, has changed shopper attitudes, increased potato consumption, while restoring potato industry confidence” concluded Mr. Bourke.
Also at today’s conference, dietitian Aoife Hearne will emphasise the importance of potatoes in the daily diet. She will outline that potatoes are an important source of potassium, Vitamin C, B Vitamins, folate, iron, and dietary fibre; they are low in sugar and saturated fat and naturally gluten free. She will discuss why carbohydrates are essential part of the diet and how potatoes contain more fibre than alternative sources of carbohydrates such as rice, pasta, porridge and bread.