Potato princes lock horns over 320 acre 'Bertie Bowl' farmland
A prime block of 320ac at Abbottstown in Co Dublin generated heated competition among the biggest potato growers in the country when it was recently offered for leasing by the Department of Agriculture.
The site had been ear-marked for a new football stadium for the FAI during Bertie Ahern's reign at the height of the economic boom. However, the farm looks set to be playing host to thousands of tons of spuds rather than fans for the foreseeable future.
Despite being located in the prime potato growing region of north Co Dublin, the farm has never been ploughed in living memory, making it a prime target for local potato growers who are finding it increasingly difficult to access suitable fresh ground within the region.
However, the tender process included some daunting requirements, including one for a €50,000 deposit and letters from the bank guaranteeing that the bidder had sufficient funds to pay the six-figure annual rent.
The successful bidder was also required to submit detailed management plans covering such diverse issues as hedgerow and tree maintenance and traffic controls. It also stipulated that potatoes could only be grown in the first year, followed by a cereal crop in year two. The actual bid accounted for just 30pc of the scoring process.
In the end, high profile potato growers and merchants, Keoghs from Oldtown, Co Dublin secured the farm for the two-year lease period. When quizzed as to how much the annual rent was, Tom Keogh said that they paid standard agricultural rates. "We didn't pay over the odds for the ground," he said. It is believed that the annual rent is somewhere between €100,000-€150,000.
Mr Keogh says that they have already started to plant rooster, selena and maris piper varieties, and intend to plant the entire farm with potatoes this year. "You wouldn't want for better land," commented a delighted Mr Keogh.