Irlanda: Many potato farms facing closure, IFA warns
The IFA will hold a national meeting of potato growers next week in Dublin.
The Irish Farmers’ Association has warned that many potato farmers "will be forced out of business" unless packers and retailers increase returns to their farmer suppliers.
IFA president Tim Cullinan said that commercial potato farming is "simply not viable" this year with land rental, fertiliser, fuel, and storage costs.
He was speaking ahead of a national meeting of potato growers being held by the IFA at the Radisson Blu Hotel Dublin Airport next Wednesday, March 15, at 7pm.
"The mood among potato farmers is at an all-time low, and we are facing an exodus similar to the vegetable sector if action is not taken urgently," Mr Cullinan said.
Hanging in the balance
The chair of the national potato committee Sean Ryan said that the upcoming potato season is "hanging in the balance because of a broken food chain".
"The IFA has pointed this out for the past 18 months, but we are at breaking point. Growers simply cannot afford to put crops in the ground this year if changes are not made," Mr Ryan said.
"Shipments of potatoes have been exported to Portugal, with good demand for more Irish potatoes reported. It is a sad state of affairs when growers are forced to export potatoes because the cost of storage is unviable."
Mr Ryan said that growers who are currently weighing up their options for plantings this year say the numbers are "simply not stacking up for them".
"The pricing model is broken. Growers must be paid for the huge energy cost of storing potatoes from the time of harvest to ensure a continuous supply throughout the year," Mr Ryan said.
"Potato farmers need the market to return a fair price that makes their farms viable," he concluded.
Sector in ’disarray’
Meanwhile, the IFA national fruit and vegetable committee chair Niall McCormack has said the delay in the opening of the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector is "unacceptable and urgent action must be taken to open the scheme immediately".
The scheme usually opens in autumn with applications closing before Christmas, however, it was delayed this year due to state aid approval. The IFA has raised this issue with the Department of Agriculture, it said.
"The Irish horticulture sector is currently in disarray in terms of market challenges, input costs, and longstanding issues such as labour and land availability," Mr McCormack said.
"The hold up in the opening of this scheme is preventing any possible works that growers can do to improve efficiencies."