Opinion: When are we going to put the Irish back into 'Irish' potatoes?
I recently brought up the topic of potato production and some of the problems that lie within that sector. It's easy enough to point out flaws in this, and indeed any sector. The problem arises when you go about suggest solutions to these problems.
The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is the UK body charged with promotion of UK agriculture.
The section on potatoes however, strikes a very apologetic tone, admitting the UK is dependent on imports from mainland Europe to meet requirements. 'We are doing our best' is the tone.
The UK grows about 139,000ha of potatoes for a population 65 million. That would work out at about 9,700ha for a population of 4.5 million.
We in Ireland on the other hand, tell all and sundry about our wonderful potato industry, how unique it is, how 'we luv our spudz' that kind of guff. Yet our production area is 8,900ha, for a population of 4.5 million, 2,000 acres less than the UK equivalent per capita area. That in a nutshell is the problem.
We are more dependent on imports to feed ourselves than the UK is, but we prefer to ignore the facts and to believe the marketing spin about Ireland being 'the food island'. How do we go about correcting the problems in the Irish potato sector? Well I have four suggestions.
1 Acknowledge the problem
Production area is reducing, sales are dropping, innovation is non-existent, stagnation is the order the day. It's time to forget the spin and get to work on the reality. The industry is slipping away and unless or until all the stakeholders, or actors in the supply chain are brought round the table, it's not going to improve.