CRITICISM of the promotion of UK potatoes has been refuted by the British Potato Council, which claims that promotions were so successful in 2000 the industry asked for them to be repeated this year.

Peter Cooper, of market information company Potato Call, says the BPC should adopt a more “hands-on” approach.

He reports that growers have seen very little reaction to the BPCs efforts, and think that the campaign needs a “kick-start”.

Peter Cooks, of farmer-owned co-op Puffin Produce, agrees that their could have been better coverage early in the season.

“We are in direct competition with Jersey potatoes, which have an almost infinite budget, and a very wide sales window, which encroaches on the British sales period.”

“The BPC should be more forceful and persuade supermarkets to take Jersey produce only until the start of the UK early season, and then switch over to British spuds.”

But Richard Clark of packer Branston Potatoes says that growers dont appreciate the work that goes into the schemes.

“The BPC has made a big difference to consumer awareness, with promotions like Kids go Free and National Chip Week,” he says.

Last years figures show a definite boost in sales: Safeway saw a 74% year-on-year uplift on regional bags, and Tesco recorded a 30% increase in sales of 1.5kg packs.

Potato buyer Roy Maynard says: “Kids go Free was a fantastic promotion resulting in excellent sales. The customer feedback was overwhelming.”

In a recent survey, 81% of shoppers wanted more ideas on recipes and information on characteristics of different potatoes.

The BPC is now offering recipe leaflets featuring celebrity chef James Martin, which will be a strong feature of the maincrop promotion.

“Our aim is to match, if not increase, the uplift in sales we saw last year and to encourage retailer feedback to show the industry how much the promotion adds value to the product,” said a spokeswoman for the company.

Meanwhile, prices have struggled to hold following the long weekend and disappointing orders, although top quality frying samples continue to enjoy strong demand.

Premiere are worth 80-85/t bagged, while loose-skin baking varieties have weakened to 60-80/t in bulk.