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Importance of Addressing Deteriorating Potato Market Stressed by NFUS

Real health benefits of the potato should be promoted says President

NFU Scotland has stressed the importance of addressing the issue of a falling potato market, and highlighting the real health benefits of the potato.

The Union’s President Allan Bowie and Potatoes Working Group Chairman Russell Brown spoke at a Potato Council open meeting on Monday 16 March at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston.

The meeting focussed on the extreme pressure the high potato stock position, combined with changes in fresh consumption across Europe, is causing, and an approach to address this.

President Bowie commented: “To put the Scottish potato industry into context, in 2013 potatoes represented nine per cent of the total Scottish agricultural output.  

“The share of output coming from potatoes is three times higher in Scotland than it is in England – so potatoes are important to Scotland.

“We have a particular problem with a very high proportion of our production aimed at the fresh market, where demand has been falling.  We don’t have enough processing capacity to be able to take full advantage of the shift in consumption towards processed potato products. So unless the Scottish ware sector is to contract, more needs to be done to reverse falling fresh potato consumption – it’s good to hear what Nick White was able to tell us about that.

“The public, especially the young need to understand that potatoes are not old-fashioned.  They are heathy, convenient and environmentally responsible.  In general retailers need to improve how they present potatoes to customers.  In particular they need to ensure that green potatoes are not displayed.

“In a year like this weaknesses in the supply chain are also exposed.  Just two years ago NFUS sent a strong team to the Potato Council’s London Summit.  That was an ambitious undertaking which unfortunately didn’t get as much support from retailers as it should.

“The establishment of the Groceries Code Adjudicator has been a positive step to help target abusive practices. However, this needs to be widened, to allow abuse at all stages of the supply chain to be addressed, not just that final link.

“It’s not enough just to have good contracts, we need greater transparency in the supply chain.

“We can have a chance to fix this decline, and by working together throughout the whole supply chain, it can be the catalyst for change.”

Commenting after the meeting, Russell Brown, NFU Scotland’s Potatoes Working Group Chairman said: “It was great to see such a good turnout at yesterday’s event to debate the very serious position that potato growers are finding themselves in.

“It was a very sombre meeting - we were all told there was no silver bullet with potato consumption falling for 70 years and that this is not going to be easy to reverse.

“There was a consensus from the growers in the meeting that if we did not reduce our acreage to match the demand we could still be in the exactly same position next year. As we are all losing significant amounts of money that is not an option. There were calls for greater transparency in the potato chain.

“We welcome the change in emphasis in funding for research and development and promotion, and also recognise the need to rejuvenate the ‘One Voice’ campaign which has been run in recent years.”

Ends

Contact Ruth McClean on 0131 472 4108
 

Date Published:

News Article No.: 48/15


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