For those who holidayed abroad during the latter part of 2016, the weak pound added considerably to the costs involved. However, this very same set of circumstances – let’s call it the Brexit effect – has provided a real fillip for the food industry.
Exports from Northern Ireland to the Euro zone and beyond have never been more competitive. As a result, local farmgate prices held up well throughout 2016, despite the country being in the depths of uncertainty regarding the future of the EU and.
The last 12 months have confirmed that the agri-food sector tends to be pretty insulated from economic downturns: the reality is that we all have to eat.
And in this regard there is growing evidence that local consumers are eating out less and spending more time in the kitchen at home.
One industry benefitting from these changing circumstances is the potato sector. Recent research carried out confirms that potato consumption in Northern Ireland is on the rise. Prices in the shops have remained extremely competitive over the past 12 months. Packers, such as Wilson’s Country, are now clearly selling potatoes on a varietal basis.
But it also now apparent that to get the full nutritional value from potatoes we should eat them with their skins on. All of the fibre and most of the Vitamin C are located at or very near the surface of the tubers. Nutritionists are now going so far as to encourage us to make mash or champ using boiled potatoes with their skins intact.
A recent report from the Health Committee at Stormont highlighted the growing problem of obesity in our society. Nutrition will play a key role in addressing this challenge.
The good news for the farming industry in Northern Ireland is the fact that potatoes tick all the right boxes from a dietary perspective. They are high in starch, high in fibre, low in fat and can constitute up to 25% of our daily Vitamin C requirements.
As consumers strive to find best value for money in these economically stringent times they should be told very clearly just what good value potatoes do represent, from every point of view.