Humble spud's fightback halted by terrible weather
THE humble spud is fighting back against pasta and rice by taking a growing share of the dinner plate for the first time in years.
But this reversal of fortune for potatoes is under threat as stocks dwindle and prices soar.
Crisp maker Tayto uses around 10pc of the national crop but has struggled with supplies after yields slumped following last year's terrible summer, which forced prices to double in the last 12 months.
The squeeze comes just as new figures from industry analysts Kantar Worldpanel reveal that potatoes had finally turned the tide in the carb war against pasta and rice.
The potato share of the carbohydrate market fell from 81pc in 2006 to 71pc in 2011 – but climbed back to 74pc in 2012. But the current shortage could jeopardise the recovery.
A 10kg bag of potatoes selling for under €5 last year will now cost up to €11, while prices paid to farmers have also doubled, Central Statistics Office figures show. And restaurants, chippers and manufacturers have had to work hard to ensure continued supplies of the spuds they need.
Tayto owners Largo Foods said the last potato season had been very difficult for its growers.
"Potato crop yields were at a historically low level. Because of this the price Largo pays for potatoes has increased," a spokesman said.
"We paid more to our existing growers to compensate for the losses they endured.
"In addition, because our growers could not supply the volume we needed we had to pay extra to secure potatoes from un-contracted growers."
Asked if crisp prices would rise as a result, Largo said its recommended retail prices did not fluctuate with the market. Higher costs have also affected the Boxty House restaurant in Temple Bar, which specialises in Irish cuisine.
"We're all about potatoes and we use 50 tonnes of them a year, but prices have doubled this year, so yes it's costing us, but you can't pass it on to the customer," said owner Padraic Og Gallagher.
Kantar figures show that the value of potato sales grew by 14pc to €165m in Ireland last year after years of decline, though this was mainly down to rising prices.
The volume of potatoes sold declined by 1.4pc but this was bottoming out compared to the fall seen in previous years, and in fact shoppers were buying them more frequently than before, said Kantar commercial director David Berry.
Potatoes are bought every 0.6 seconds in Ireland.