Time for industry to fund its own destiny

Wilson's Country Chairman Angus Wilson and Quality Assurance Supervisor Irene Black checking the quality of the potatoes coming through the company's pack house earlier this week.

Wilson's Country Chairman Angus Wilson and Quality Assurance Supervisor Irene Black checking the quality of the potatoes coming through the company's pack house earlier this week.

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Wilson’s Country chairman Angus Wilson has confirmed that his company is fully supporting the proposed potato promotional campaign, due to be launched this autumn.

The targeted £120,000 initiative will run over a three year period and will be co-ordinated by a promotional group representing all sectors of the industry: growers, packers and processors.

The Wilson’s Country representative is just one member of the industry-wide committee currently co-ordinating the project.

“We are encouraging all growers to support the campaign,” he confirmed.

“But it’s also important that we get the required buy-in from all sectors of the industry. And this includes the Department of Agriculture.

“All contributions will be made on a voluntary basis. But, in truth, the industry must face up to the reality that it must invest in its own future now.”

Angus went on to point out that the potato sector has been coming under considerable pressure in the market place for some time, particularly from the likes of pasta and rice.

“The good news is that the potato industry is already responding to these challenges. In our own case at Wilson’s Country we have brought smaller pack size options to the market, in order to maximise convenience and minimise waste,” he said.

“But overriding all of this is the reality that potatoes are amongst the most nutritious and taste filled foods available to local consumers.

“This is the core message which the industry must communicate to the general public.”

The Wilson’s Country chairman also confirmed that the envisaged campaign will help pump prime EU funding for the potato sector.

“At one level it will help to directly promote potatoes in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“However, if proven to be successful, the campaign will open the door for future EU funding opportunities, where potatoes are concerned.

“This approach has already been taken jointly by the British Council and Bord Bia in the Republic of Ireland.

“Working together they have drawn up a €4.5 million generic potato promotional campaign which, if backed by Brussels, will allow them to draw down €2.25 million of support from Europe.

“There is no reason why we in Northern Ireland cannot go down this road in the future.

“But a prerequisite to all of this will be the necessity for the local potato sector to demonstrate that it has the wherewithal to secure financial commitments from the various industry stakeholder groups.”