Potato farmers have accused supermarkets of causing food waste by increasing quality requirements of potatoes to 'unattainable levels'.
Thomas McKeown of Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has called on all retailers to recognise the work of potato farmers and to consider the economic sustainability of the Irish potato sector.
He said that in recent weeks some retailers have raised the specs on potatoes to unattainable levels.
"This is hitting producer incomes and leading to high levels of food waste.
“With the collapse of the foodservice sector due to Covid, there is no market for a rejected product, and it is ending up as animal feed”.
He said retailers are misleading the consumer by offering what they deem to be the perfect potato. They are rejecting potatoes which are perfectly edible and contributing to the issue of food waste," he said.
Mr McKeown said highlighted that the production of potatoes is down over 10pc compared to last year and warned that if retailers continue to reject 'quality' potatoes, it will lead to shortages of the potatoes required by the retail market.
“They should act responsibly and show solidarity with their suppliers, rather than taking advantage and trying to profiteer in this unique market situation. If retailers want to continue to take only a limited amount of the potato crop, they will need to increase the price paid to farmers considerably.”
“With the threat of a hard Brexit still looming, it is more important than ever that retailers support the Irish potato sector rather than undermining it,” said the IFA Potato Chairman.
He said the Irish potato industry is a critical indigenous sector worth €80m at the farm gate. Four hundred growers’ plant over 8,000 hectares annually.