One of the local companies that trades both table potatoes and ready meals is Country Crest in Lusk. The third generation is already active in this family business. Today, it’s Michael and his brother Gabriel Hoey who are in charge here.
Having started out as a pure farming business, Country Crest is now active in cultivation, storage, as well as in the packaging of table potatoes and the production of ready-made meals. They also have a farm shop where they sell products and provide consumer information. The business also has an exclusive partnership with the Tesco supermarket chain, to which it has supplied table potatoes since 1998. ‘We supply around 20 percent of the retail trade in Ireland’, Michael Hoey says. The current turnover is 30,000 tons of table potatoes per year. ‘In addition to the packaging of Rooster, we see a trend that younger consumers are increasingly buying the smaller baby potatoes’, explains Hoey. To serve these different markets as well, Country Crest grows 220 hectares of Rooster and Cultra. In addition, two more growers supply the company with an extra quantity of potatoes. The company also imports early potatoes every year to bridge the gaps between the old and the new harvest.
Since 2000, the company has also been active in the preparation of freshly-made meals, under the Ballymaguire Foods brand. ‘At this sister company, we produce up to 300,000 meals a week. We process more potatoes in this branch than in small packaging. We not only supply Tesco with the fresh meals, but also other chains such as Super Valu and Aldi’, Hoey says proudly. To which he adds that the demands for meals are even higher than for table potatoes. As for the impact of Brexit, he says it has mainly helped his business in the potato trade. ‘Supermarkets mainly want continuity in the supply of products. Working with partners who grow and package locally gives you more continuity. Especially when you consider that logistics have become rather complicated after Brexit.’
As Chairman of the Irish Potato Federation (IPF), Hoey is closely involved in the WPC in his country. In particular, he sees opportunities to use the WPC as an international stage through which he can present the potato and his company professionally to the local press. At the farm, where Hoey has assembled an impressive tractor museum, a big meeting will be held as part of the technical tour. Here, companies such as IPM, Agrico, John Deere, Grimme and others will present their latest developments. ‘We want to ensure that the potato also stays in the DNA of young people’, Hoey emphasises. He plans to organise an Irish Potato Day for the growers on the day after the WPC.
For this series, Jaap Delleman travelled to Ireland ahead of the World Potato Congress 2022 in Dublin (May 30 – June 2). A full, comprehensive preview was published in PotatoWorld 1, 2022.
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