Fall-out from Brexit key talking point

Eight year old Leah Ward, from Comber, had a quick chat with the Mighty Spud, at this year's Comber Potato Festival
Eight year old Leah Ward, from Comber, had a quick chat with the Mighty Spud, at this year's Comber Potato Festival

Large numbers of visitors thoroughly enjoyed this year’s Comber Potato festival. But, in truth, it was the fall-out from last Thursday’s Brexit vote that was giving representatives of the food companies in attendance most to think about, writes Richard Halleron.

For one thing, Comber potatoes enjoy PGI, or Protected Geographical Indication status, under current EU regulations. And, by common consent this hard won accolade has been used to help differentiate Comber potatoes within the market place at a critically important time of the year for growers and packers.

“I don’t know where last Thursday’s vote leaves us,” said Richard Orr, a member of the Comber Earlies’ Grower Co-op.

“We got some money from the EU to develop a website and to help within our initial marketing activities.

“One of our aims is to push ahead and sell authentic Comber earlies in a selection of London’s top end supermarkets.

“The development of the Comber brand is helping to deliver better returns for growers, and we need to build on this whether or not the PGI accreditation remains in place.”

Communicating the tremendous taste and nutritional benefits of locally grown potatoes was an overarching theme to this year’s festival. Ian Duff, co-ordinator of the NI Stakeholder Potato Promotion Group, said that his organisation has been specifically set up to do this job.

“And we have had a very encouraging first 12 months. We are particularly targeting young people, where potatoes are concerned.

“The reality is that we have a good news story to tell. The initial campaign, which is part funded by potato growers and packers on a voluntary basis, will last for two years. We had a very successful Balmoral Show and we recognise just how important the Comber Festival is to growers in the North Down areas.”

The Comber festival was launched four years ago. It has become a firm favourite with visitors from the North Down area and further afield. And the good news for those taking in the sights, and sounds of this year’s event is that everyone can look forward to enjoying a bumper crop of high quality Comber earlies in 2016.

“Eating quality is excellent, despite the fact that crops were planted out a month later than would normally be the case,” confirmed Wilson’s Country managing director Lewis Cunningham.

“The warm weather of recent weeks has boosted crop growth rates and the dry matters of the harvested potatoes. All of this does wonders for the taste of the spuds, once they are cooked.

“Potato size is also very uniform this year. This factor makes them even more appealing to consumers.”