Spudmen suffer as supermarkets profit

Robert Davies

EARLY potato growers in Pembrokeshire are losing around £1400/ha (£600/acre), the Welsh Assemblys agriculture committee chairman has been told.

During a visit to West Farm, Cosheton, arranged by the Farmers Union of Wales, Ieuan Wyn-Jones heard that Martin and Pat Evans stood to recoup only about 50% of the cost of growing their 242.8ha (600acre) potato crop. But while their farmgate price was £45/t, or 2p/lb, the supermarket they could see from their farm was charging over 20p/lb.

Growers had invested heavily in growing the crop and in grading and packaging facilities, only to make big losses.

Jane Howells, FUW county executive officer, told Mr Wyn-Jones that many of her members were very angry indeed, and desperately worried about mounting losses. She thought that retailers could not deny the truth about profiteering on potatoes.

“With meat they can hide behind processing charges and differences in the value of various parts of carcasses. Potatoes are processed and delivered in retailers own bags. All they have to do is display the product and collect a huge mark up at the tills.”

Ms Howells said growers who supported their local marketing groups efforts to work more closely with the big retailers, felt let down by the volume of forward bought imports on shelves. They also questioned whether the British Potato Council had done enough to encourage supermarkets to commit themselves to home grown potatoes.

Reports reaching the British Potato Council confirm the price collapse in all early potato growing areas. A spokesman said that this years volatile early market had been affected by a greater than usual overlap in crop lifting times in several regions. Harvesting had also coincided with imports from Cyprus and Italy which were later than last year.

This weeks Pembrokeshire and Cornwall prices were less than 50%, compared with last year.

See more