Spud growers face wipe out as prices drop to €70/tonne
Hundreds of potato growers face potential ruin this year as potato prices plummet far below the cost of growing them, Teagasc and the IFA have warned.
With costs of production estimated at €185/t, excluding storage and irrigation costs, many growers are being forced to accept prices of €130/t. Facing spiralling debts, some farmers have been forced to accept prices as low as €70/t to avoid further storage costs.
IFA president John Bryan said potato growers were facing wipeout as retailers and packers pocketed up to 80pc of the final retail price.
"With average farmgate prices at €130 per tonne, and retail prices averaging €500 per tonne, it is clear for anyone to see that the situation is totally inequitable," he insisted.
Ireland's top three retailers control nearly 80pc of the market, exacerbating the problem of price negotiations.
"The excessive profiteering must end and growers must get fair play. It is not acceptable that retailers drive primary producers into bankruptcy because of a short-term oversupply situation."
This year's potato crop is some 7pc higher than the eight-year average, according to Teagasc estimates, and market oversupply problems have been compounded by the loss of a crucial export market.
Eastern European countries provided an outlet for more than 30,000t of ware potatoes during the 2010/2011 season. However, the export market was driven only by drought conditions in these countries and has now closed.