SCOTLAND, UK - To combat tumbling consumption, NFU Scotland has urged the potato industry’s statutory levy body to consider shifting its funding emphasis from research and development to more promotion.
The Union was responding to a consultation on the Potato Council’s draft business plan, which includes a proposal to raise the statutory levy on growers and packers.
The Union believes that fresh, promotional work highlighting the nutritional and health benefits of potatoes could be delivered through the Potato Council’s existing ‘One Voice’ campaign. The goal of One Voice is for potatoes to be seen as a good food by shoppers, politicians and the media alike, remaining a staple on British plates.
Commenting on the NFUS submission, Fife potato producer Russell Brown, chairman of NFU Scotland’s Potatoes Working Group said:
“Scottish growers value our close contacts with the Potato Council (PCL) via the Council’s permanent presence in Scotland and regular attendance at NFUS meetings. In particular, the PCL support of the seed potato sector is hugely important to Scotland.
“However, the number one issue faced by the sector right now is the continuing fall in consumption of fresh potatoes, and the impact that has on farmgate prices. Diminishing demand for potatoes has, unfortunately, seen retailers pay less and less attention to the marketing of the product. Sales, as a result, are currently caught in a downwards spiral that we must turnaround.
“We recognise that solutions are not simple but many Scottish growers have identified the need, at this time, for a shift of emphasis in the levy budget priorities from R&D to promotion.
“The existing ‘One Voice’ Campaign could form the basis of an enhanced promotion effort. Messages about the health benefits of potatoes, in comparison to other carbohydrate sources, need to be put in front of consumers in a medium that they regularly access, such as consumer magazines. That could also provide the platform to overcome the public’s perception that potatoes are time consuming to cook.
“The role of health professionals in recognising the benefits of potatoes in the diet would be helped by having potatoes accepted as a vegetable for ‘five-a-day’. Achieving that might have to come after the message on the benefits of potatoes in the diet starts to get through to health and nutrition experts.
“Work with retailers to improve the presentation of potatoes in stores is important too and growers continue to be appalled at the number of green potatoes still appearing in packs and shelves. A move away from plastic packaging would help to reduce the green potato problem and we understand that where retailers use more suitable paper packaging, it helps increase the perception of potatoes as a valuable product.
“We appreciate this is a very difficult year for potatoes but we have chosen to support the proposals for a levy increase. If the spend of levy funds can be seen to be making a more positive impact on consumption – and therefore the value of fresh potatoes - this would help growers to see the value in their levy contributions.
“One area of levy spend that growers also believe merits additional resources is market forecasting. Given the current difficulties, better balancing of likely demand with plantings could help to reduce the risk of over-supply, which has a crippling impact on prices to growers.
“Scottish growers are keen to build on our relationship with the Potato Council and early discussions are underway on a potential joint event in March where promotion, marketing and future demand could form part of the discussions.”
TheCropSite News Desk