Thursday, 16 November 2023
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
215. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he envisages any supports being put in place to assist the potato sector following concerns raised by farmer representative bodies that harvesting of this year’s crop is now essentially a salvage operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50408/23]
I am acutely aware and fully appreciate the challenges that some potato growers are experiencing in completing the 2023 harvest following extended periods of rainfall.
My Department, as a member of the Potato Development Group, collaborates with Teagasc, Bord Bia, and the IFA in the development and support of the potato sector. The work of the Potato Development Group is informed by long-standing expertise, knowledge and sectoral insights. I understand from the Potato Development Group that in regions where ground conditions remain wet, harvesting continues where possible as advised.
Notwithstanding the variable and adverse weather encountered this year, I also understand that the potato sector has fared positively compared to other horticultural sub sectors. Potatoes have commanded strong prices throughout 2023 with market demand consistently high throughout the year. On balance, based on the information available evidencing the overall relative strength of the potato sector during 2023 it is not possible to consider specific supports for the potato sector at this time.
My Department will keep me informed of the situation with respect to national marketable yield, regional variation in harvest outcomes, and farmgate prices in the weeks ahead.
The potato sector has a vital part to play in Irish horticulture, and holds a particular resonance in Irish culture and I remain committed to its support. In 2023 I committed €3.1 million to the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Seed and Chipping Potato Sectors and I increased the eligibility for sector specific capital investment under the Targeted Agriculture Modernisation Scheme (TAMS).
In addition initial support is also available to the potato sector to set up Producer Organisations under the Early Stage Support for Producer Organisation Scheme administered by my Department.
The National Strategy for Horticulture 2023-2027 which I launched earlier this year together with my colleague, Minister Pippa Hackett, has clear sub sector specific actions for the potato sector which I am eager to see grow and flourish in the years ahead.