Big issues coming home to roost for our potato growers
IF YOU ever venture over to Eastern Europe, you will find that when the good citizens are looking for a quality starch food to go with their meat and vegetables, they don’t talk about the potato, but reach for the ‘Irish potato’.
This is an example of the strong relationship we as a nation have to this basic of foodstuffs. You would think that with this strong relationship, at the very least, we would have a supply chain of potatoes that would be at least comprehensive, if not vibrant and progressive.
Alas this is far from the case. The potato industry in Ireland is anything but vibrant, most of it isn’t even Irish.
Any review of the potato industry (and there has been no shortage of them) inevitably blames the reduction in potato consumption on the rise of ‘pasta and rice’ and ‘hectic lifestyles’. These conclusions are usually accompanied by calls for more marketing and further reviews.
While there is no doubt that there are many external factors working against the consumption of potatoes in Ireland, there are plenty of internal factors working against the sector as well.
There is no doubt that when the history of the potato crop in Ireland is written, the impact that one variety Rooster, bred in Oakpark by Harry Kehoe, had on the industry will be writ large.
As a variety it has its weaknesses, but it is a fantastic all-rounder, readily recognisable and has a strong brand following.
But when the only ‘table potato’ on offer by every retail unit in the country for the entire year is one variety, we have a problem. Agronomically, it’s a big problem.
As well as the risk of one variety breaking down to a new pest or disease, more practically, the variety Rooster is very late maturing. It’s a scary thought that as we approach the middle of September, the entire crop required to feed this country from now until next July is still sitting out in fields, not even desiccated in most instances.
If the weather continues for another month as it has done for the last month, we have a big problem with the crop — we won’t be able to get it all dug before winter.
More importantly, we also have a problem with only ‘offering’ one variety to the consumer — it equals boredom and stasis.
Consumers are constantly been ‘wowed’ and bombarded with the latest super foods.
All the better if it comes from some far corner of some far f lung rainforest.
What chance does the bag of spuds have against exotic foodstuffs?