Growers encouraged to support new potato marketing campaign

Picture: Cliff Donaldson
Picture: Cliff Donaldson

Leading potato grower Dessie Patterson has issued a “call to arms”, encouraging every potato producer in Northern Ireland to support the new promotional campaign for the industry, which was launched before Christmas.

“Potatoes are losing ground dramatically to rice and other forms of starch, such as pasta. The industry has no other choice but to fight back, using its own financial resources,” he told Farming Life.

“This is why it is so important for farmers to support the new marketing initiative. Under the envisaged scheme, growers plus packers and processors will commit to a small levy over three years. This will be match funded by the Department of Agriculture. It is envisaged that the new marketing campaign will be launched later in the autumn. March is the deadline that has been set to secure all relevant funding.

“Growers received letters in the post this week, containing direct debit forms, which will allow them support the new initiative. The producer levy works out at £6 per acre for each of ththe next three years.

“I am aware that growers are under significant financial pressure at the present time. However, the levy, in my opinion, is a cost well worth incurring, give the benefits which the industry as a whole will accrue from the planned marketing campaign.”

Putting potatoes back on the plates of consumers is the key objective of the new promotional campaign, which will see industry representatives working together to develop and implement a high profile initiative to stimulate demand for potatoes and highlight their health benefits, convenience and versatility.

Members of the recently established Promotions Group, appointed to drive the envisaged campaign forward, are hopeful that additional financial support may be available from DARD in the future.

“To get the programme up and running by autumn 2015 we need to have the funds secured now, so that we can appoint marketing professionals as soon as possible,” Mr Patterson continued.

“The scheme will be funded primarily by voluntary contributions and we are asking the various sectors within the industry to commit accordingly.”

The proposed levies are as follows:

Ware growers: £6 per acre grown; packers/processors- £6 per acre (or 40 pence per tonne) packed; grower packers £9 per acre grown and packed and seed grower £3 per acre grown for certification

The programme will run for three years with contributions due 1 march each year (2015,2016 and 2017).