Written by Rachel Martin
Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has announced further information on the £2 million financial support package for potato growers.
The package has been granted in response to the significant reduction in demand from the hospitality and foodservice sector for processing potatoes in the past six months due to Covid-19 lockdown measures.
The news follows a meeting between Poots and representatives of the UFU Potato Committee.
Minister Poots said: “Growers who still have quantities of unsold potatoes in their stores, which were destined for the potato processing supply chain, must complete an online Expression of Interest form to register for the scheme and request an inspection of all potatoes held in their stores.
“Following verification of potatoes in stores that are no longer of acceptable quality for the processing market, growers can dispose of them for animal feed or as raw material for anaerobic digesters. This will simplify the administrative process and reduce the amount of bureaucracy for growers.
“With the hospitality industry reopening, growers with good quality potatoes in cold stores may yet have an opportunity to sell their potatoes into the processing market. Final inspections of potatoes held in cold stores to verify quantities that are only suitable for stock feed will not take place until late July.
“This is the second year in succession these farmers have lost their market and this support will be a contribution towards the financial loss incurred and help sustain their businesses,” the Minister concluded.
Retain evidence of potato sales
UFU deputy president William Irvine said, “The Northern Ireland processing potato sector will benefit greatly from this second Covid-19 package as potato growers’ incomes have been hit for the second year in a row.
“An online expression of interest form is now available on the DAERA website for the scheme, alongside an inspection request for potatoes held in growers’ cold stores. I urge our members who are selling potatoes for stock feed to continue to retain evidence of sales to meet the anticipated scheme requirements.”
Further details of the scheme and the Expression of Interest form are available here on the DAERA website.
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