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Ireland’s Potato Consumption is Relatively Steady

Farmers and industry from across the country attended the National Potato Conference and Trade Show today, Tuesday, 18 February, organised by Teagasc, IFA and Bord Bia in the Red Cow Hotel, Dublin.

Ireland’s Potato Consumption is Relatively Steady
Pictured at the National Potato Conference today were from (L to R): Barry Delaney, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; John Spink, Head of Crops, Environment and Land-Use Programme, Teagasc; Lorcan Bourke, Manager, Potato Sector, Bord Bia and Tim Cullinan, IFA President.

National Potato Conference highlights the health benefits of potatoes

Respected dietician, Aoife Hearne, speaking at the conference said; “We are targeting how millennials view and consume carbohydrates.  Areas such as natural and sustainable foods, low food miles and value for money are all important to this group.  Potatoes fit well into each of these areas while we are also emphasising that all food groups including carbohydrates are essential for wellness.”

Market Research by Kantar Worldpanel has revealed potato consumption in Ireland has been steady over the past five years.  “Consumers are either buying more volume, or buying more often, in response to price with the total volume purchased remaining relatively constant”.

Research from the UK, presented by Stu Baker, AHDB, suggests UK consumers have a greater awareness of climate change issues, which are driven by social media. However this has not translated into significant behaviour change yet.  Lorcan Bourke, Bord Bia, launched a promotional campaign targeting millennials. He said; “This campaign will run for the next three years targeting the way potatoes, as a carbohydrate source, are perceived and fit into the lifestyles and aspirations of millennials and also communicating the health benefits of potatoes.”

The conference addressed a number of technical issues for potato growers and the industry.  “Growing and storing potatoes requires a high level of technical expertise and growers must keep abreast of these developments,” according to Michael Hennessy, Head of Crops Knowledge Transfer in Teagasc.

Dr Adrian Briddon, Sutton Bridge, AHDB, UK, updated the conference on store management following the loss of one of the main tools to prevent sprouting in store.  He said; “New products such as mint oil and orange oil are not as effective as the current standard. However DMN, where carefully applied, is currently the best tool available to Irish growers”.

2020 is designated by the FAO as the International Year of Plant Health.  Barry Delany, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, presented an outline of Ireland’s excellent plant health standards and status.  Barry Delaney stressed the opportunities to build on our High Grade Seed Area to improve seed self-sufficiency and develop export markets.   

Growers are facing the loss of a critical management tool (diquat) this year.  Shay Phelan, Teagasc Crops Specialist, brought growers through management options in the absence of this desiccant. “Crop planning plays an important role in managing potato maturity at harvest and this can be combined with new management techniques to control potato haulm prior to harvest”.  Shay Phelan added; “Growers will have to upskill their knowledge, and possibly incur extra machinery costs, to ensure a timely harvest while maintaining potato quality”

Energy use in the potato sector was also in focus at the national potato conference. “Potato farms have a large energy requirement when storing potatoes though the year in large fridges,” according to Barry Caslin, Teagasc.  “There are many ways to improve efficiency in stores and using solar PV combined with battery storage can produce a significant proportion of their energy as renewable,” he added.

For more information on the National Potato Conference please visit the www.teagasc.ie or www.ifa.ie web pages