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Potato Sector

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 13 March 2012

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Ceisteanna (445, 446)

Seamus Kirk

Ceist:

499 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, in view of the crisis in the potato sector, if he is considering any marketing initiatives to help increase the per capita solution here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13997/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

Whilst the area of potatoes planted has declined over the last 10 years, high yields in the past two seasons have seen production levels of over 400,000 tonnes. Exports to Russia from the 2010 crop helped to balance supply and demand on the domestic market. However, this has not happened with the 2011 crop which has led to excess supplies and downward pressure on prices this season.

However, recent information from Kantar Worldpanel and recently presented at the National Potato Conference shows that 10% of all shopping trips feature potatoes and that these trips contribute 20% of overall spend on groceries. Potatoes do still stand out in this competitive market (pasta, rice, pizza, couscous etc) accounting for 40% of the value and 70% of volume sales in 2011.

An Bord Bia has commissioned research to further understand consumer behaviour towards potatoes and it is clear that the message must get out to the appropriate demographic groupings (particularly those in the younger age groupings) of the inherent health and nutritional benefits of potatoes and in particular that potatoes have a lower fat content than either pasta or rice. It is also important to flag potatoes as a meal solution in the context of convenience, simplicity, and ease using straightforward preparation techniques.

Campaigns to promote consumption of fresh produce and in particular Irish produce, are a recommendation of the Horticultural Action Group which reviewed the Harvest 2020 report. There are ongoing promotions including the Bord Bia ‘Best in Season' fresh produce promotion campaign, the ‘Food Dudes' schools, as well as ‘the Incredible Edibles' campaign.

In 2011 a consumer facing website called ‘Potato.ie' was launched to promote potatoes. It is an initiative of the Irish Potato Federation, supported by Bord Bia. Current promotional activity is focused on driving consumers to the website.

In February a Potato Promotions Group was established which aims at stabilising potato consumption in the short term and rebuilding consumption in the medium to longer term. The group has been set up under the auspices of Bord Bia and includes representatives of the Irish Potato Federation, the Irish Farmers Association and the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine.

New research carried out by Bord Bia has identified clearly the reasons for the drop in potato consumption in recent years. The Promotions Group will develop a promotional strategy around the outcome of this research which will attempt to address consumers' concerns on the regular usage of potatoes.

The EU Promotion Regulation provides 50% funding on a competitive basis to generic promotion of agricultural products. Projects supported by trade bodies in more than one Member State receive priority. The Potato Promotions Group proposes to work towards submitting an application to the EU in Autumn 2012 to secure matching Community funding for a sustained potato promotional campaign over a number of years.

In February 2012 Bord Bia organised a trade stand at the Fruit Logistica Trade Fair in Berlin (which is the largest fresh produce trade fair in the world) for the first time promoting Irish grown Rooster potato exports. This marketing initiative under the ‘Taste Ireland' banner was organised in association with the Irish Potato Federation, with five of its potato packer members exhibiting on the stand. Irish Potato Marketing (IPM) also participated on the stand, promoting their seed potato range.

Seamus Kirk

Ceist:

500 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to expand and develop seed potato production here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13998/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Maintenance of the high health status of the Irish seed potato sector is crucial to the viability of the potato industry. Under EU legislation (Decision 2004/03/EC), Ireland is one of a small number of areas within the EU officially recognised as a High Grade Seed Area for seed potatoes because the country is currently free from a number of significant potato diseases that occur in other Member States.

Under this legislation, only disease free seed of a high standard of varietal purity, known as ‘Pre-basic' and ‘Basic' certified seed potatoes can be marketed in Ireland. In 2011, almost 4,000 tonnes of seed potatoes were produced and certified for marketing.

My Department provides significant support to the seed potato industry.

To maintain the current high disease free status, my Department provides a mandatory pre-planting soil sampling service to test for the presence of potato cyst nematodes (PCN). Both growing crops and harvested tubers must pass official inspections by Department officers before being certified.

The Department's Tops Potato Centre in Donegal produces high-health, disease free first generation seed each year, for seed growers to ensure that the potato certification sector retains access to the highest quality seed.

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