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‘Young people don’t have the basic skills to cook a meal from scratch’

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President of the Polish Potato Federation Tomasz Bienkowski, CEO of Bord Bia Tara Fitzpatrick and President of the Irish Potato Federation Michael Hoey, officially open the 11th World Potato Congress in Dublin.

President of the Polish Potato Federation Tomasz Bienkowski, CEO of Bord Bia Tara Fitzpatrick and President of the Irish Potato Federation Michael Hoey, officially open the 11th World Potato Congress in Dublin.

President of the Polish Potato Federation Tomasz Bienkowski, CEO of Bord Bia Tara Fitzpatrick and President of the Irish Potato Federation Michael Hoey, officially open the 11th World Potato Congress in Dublin.

Young people don't have the basic skills to cook a meal from scratch and home economics should be compulsory in schools, according to Ross Keogh.

The Director of the north Co Dublin potato growers and crisp makers Keogh's was speaking at the World Potato Congress in the RDS this week.

He said that while there was an increase in potato consumption during Covid, that is now reducing as Ireland comes out of the pandemic.

However, it's a lack of skills in how to cook from scratch that is the biggest challenge facing the potato industry in Ireland, he said.

A large cohort of 18-34-year-olds, he said, say they do not have the necessary skills to cook a meal.

"That's a serious issue," he said, and "back to basics innovation" is needed by bringing cooking back into schools.

"Currently in Ireland home economics is not mandatory and it should be at the junior and senior level."

Mr Keogh also said that while 60pc of 18-24-year-olds like to experiment with cooking, he said, they don't like preparing a lot of vegetables as it creates too much washing up.

Concerns around packaging too were an issue for the potato industry and while 94pc of consumer say they want reduced packaging on foods such as potatoes, he said it's processed food (in packaging) that is seeing a rise in sales.

He also said that consumers need to be educated about potatoes and how to cook with them, with consumers confused by the current offering of potatoes.

"Telling the consumer what the type of potato is and what it's best for is essential. Is it waxy, floury or fluffy?

"Too often I've seen customers coming into the potato section (of a supermarket) dumbfounded and they walk straight through down the rice and pasta aisle, grab a jar and pasta and away they go.

"It's all done for them, the thinking is taken out. We need to try do the same across the board. Our target audience is not engaged.

"We need to talk to the consumer and teach them that it's a superfood.

"Potatoes have more potassium than a banana and no fat," Mr Keogh added, stressing that they have great environmental credentials.

They are also good value, he said, with a large bag of potatoes that costs around €7 feeding a family of five for a week and a half.

The congress also heard that the continued trend is for fresh potato consumption to decrease while consumption of processed products increases in Europe.

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