Superstores a limiting factor
SUPERMARKET potato buying policy is limiting crop advances, says NIAB, with growers and consumers missing out and consumption suffering.
Speaking at the event, NIABs Simon Kerr said buyers were too hung up on variety.
"Variety does not guarantee quality. Quality varies according to the season and soil type. What we need to do is improve consistency to the consumer – thats what they are interested in, not necessarily what variety they buy."
Improved retail quality might stem the decline in ware consumption, he said, but buyers may have to accept more varieties to achieve that. In turn, that would allow agronomic advances to be utilised.
"If the end market is being very restrictive in the type of variety it is accepting, then it is hard to get new varieties in that have benefits, benefits to growers and consumers at the end of the day because there is less pesticide being used."
Mr Kerr said buying policy based on cooking quality criteria, such as dry matter, disintegration and blackening, would help avoid consumer disappointments.
"A perfect example is Premiere. I bought Premiere as a new potato pre-pack and it disintegrated because it was too high in dry matter. Premiere is OK early, when it has got low dry matter, but as soon as you get into August, you shouldnt be selling it. This was Tesco – they were selling it at the wrong time of year."
Varieties such as Nicola or Charlotte – which have inherently lower dry matter – would have been fine, he said.