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Starch Potatoes

Quick Facts

  • The USA is the biggest producer of starch in the world with more than 50% of total production. Germany, Holland and France are the biggest starch producers in EU, with no starch production in Ireland currently.
  • More than 75% of the world’s starch production is from maize (corn). Starch use in food and industrial products is increasing by 4 % per annum
  • Increased demand for maize for ethanol production offers scope for other feedstocks to be used for starch.
  • Potato starch growing and processing are interdependent. With a small domestic market for starch products, any Irish starch processing facility would be heavily reliant on exports.
  • Ireland’s climate and traditional land rental charge for s would result in high production costs but the extended growing season would also favour higher yields.
  • Possible markets for starch sale with in Ireland could be confectionary, breweries, bakery, meat and dairy industry.

Crop Description

  • The potato plant used for starch production is the same as that used for human nutrition (Solanum tuberosum). The varieties used for starch production are those which have a high yield and high starch content. Disease and pest resistance characteristics are still important for starch production.


  • World production of starch is estimated at 90 million tonnes per year. The USA produces more than 50% of this volume with EU countries producing 12%. EU production is largely for domestic markets. Use of starch in food and industrial products have been increasing by an average of 4 % annually.
    • 75-80% is from maize of which 48-52% comes from USA
    • 8-10% is from potatoes of which 16-18% comes from EU
    • 7-9% is from wheat
    • 7-9% is from tapioca
  • 11 million tons of starch was produced in the EU in 2010 which is three times that which was produced in 1980. Seventy percent of this starch was produced in Germany, Holland and France.
  • In 2012 the world produced an estimated 364 M tonnes of potatoes of which approximately 33% was used for starch production.
  • Price fluctuations for industrial starch are correlated with short term economic swings as fewer goods sold require less less paper and corrugated board Raw material cost also impacts on starch price.
  • There is potential for growth in the starch industry influenced by new and better raw materials , the development of new starch based products and applications, and by reducing processing costs.
  • The extra demand for maize for ethanol in recent years increased demand for non-maize starch. As potato starch is more expensive to convert to ethanol than maize or wheat, demand for it for food or industry use is likely to be maintained.
  • Potato starch is not used for alcohol or sweeteners production because it historically has been too expensive
  • Starches in EU are mainly used in paper production (45%); food applications (45%) and other technical applications (10%).
  • In food use starches are used for texture, structural stability, as a fat replacer and for many other uses in many categories of processed foods. Potato starch is very neutral in taste, so the taste of other ingredients in dairy or bakery products is not influenced.
  • Other technical uses include textiles, specialists glues, base for degradable polymers manufacture among others.

Starch production in Ireland

  • Ireland does not have a starch producing facility. Also, the volume of starch and starch based products sold in Ireland is very small. With this small volume of sale any processing facility cannot survive without exports to UK and EU. This sale to other EU destinations may also be hampered by higher freight cost.
  • Possible markets for starch sale within Ireland could be confectionary, breweries, bakery, meat and dairy industry.

Suitability for Ireland

  • Ireland does not currently have a starch producing facility which would be essential to support production. As the volume of starch used in Ireland is small, any production facility would have to be able to export competitively. A careful and thorough feasibility study would be necessary to see if production would be viable against a background of international competition.
  • Ireland is suitable for potato crop production and has a high yield potential but with significant disease challenges due to our climate. Potato production expertise and equipment are widely available.
  • Starch potatoes may be grown on a wider range of soils than ware potatoes as skin quality is less of an issue allowing them to be grown on lighter textured soils which would be less easily damaged from later harvesting.

Rotation/Break Crop Benefit

  • Potatoes are a good break crop in rotations offering the scope for increased yields in the subsequent feed crop. However for disease and pest reasons a 5 to 7 year break would be needed between potato crops.
  • A challenge within rotations is to avoid causing soil structural damage caused by late harvesting in poor soil conditions. This will be a particular challenge with starch potatoes as the profit margin of the crop will not compensate for any soil damage or erosion of the beneficial benefit of the break crop in the rotation.

Research and Development Status

  • As starch potato growing and processing are interdependent, the feasibility of establishing an industry would need to be determined before other supporting research is considered. Some private commissioned studies have been carried out indicating a challenging business case. To succeed a long-ter commitment of all stake holders would be a prerequisite.
  • Breeding to develop and select the most productive varieties with the highest content of obtainable starch and good disease resistance in Irish production conditions would be essential.
  • Research on production systems to optimise starch production at lowest cost using combinations of: high yielding varieties, good disease resistance and crop management targeting starch production.

Crop Production Summary

  • The production of starch potatoes is not that different than growing potatoes for fresh consumption, except high yields of starch are a pre-requisite. The price paid is market dependent but lower than for potatoes for human consumption.
  • Potato starch content depends on potato dry matter (DM) content. Dedicated starch varieties have an average DM content of 25% with starch 19.2%.
  • Starch potatoes should contain as little sugars as possible, Factors that influence sugar content are variety, maturity, fertilization, low temperature, and storage conditions.
  • Starch potato varieties are generally less susceptible to damage than varieties for fresh consumption and this allows harvesting and handling at higher speeds.
  • Compared to other starch producing EU countries, Ireland may have higher cost of production due to higher land rental and disease control costs in our climate. The need for low production costs for starch potatoes could challenge conventional Irish ware production systems. But extended growing season and typically better opportunities for placement in good rotations could aid competitiveness.