Potato Council research ‘vital’ for UK industry says Monewden farmer Bruce Kerr

Monewden farmer Bruce Kerr gets involved in the Grow Your Own Potatoes campaign with local schoolchi

Monewden farmer Bruce Kerr gets involved in the Grow Your Own Potatoes campaign with local schoolchildren - Credit: Archant

A potato grower says the research work of the Potato Council is “vital” to maintain the UK’s position as a leading producer.

The council, a division of crop levy payers group the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, works to make the UK potato industry more sustainable and profitable. It has launched a seven week open consultation on its 2015-18 plan.

This region is an important potato growing area, with the eastern counties and East Midlands combined growing more than 40% of the UK’s 121,000 hectare potato crop.

Bruce Kerr, of Monewden, near Framlingham, one of 2,000 UK growers, produces early crops for processing and loose skin Maris Peer for supermarkets on soils ranging from sandy to heavy clay. He says the council’s research work is important to his business and others in the region.

“Potatoes are extremely valuable crop to our region,” he said. “The industry is a large employer locally, so there’s great importance to the wider economy in having a robust and sustainable industry producing potatoes.”

Independent, evidence based information is crucial to ensuring the industry moves forward, he said.

“Potato Council spends £1.4million annually on research and development topics chosen by the industry as being important to the sector. The world-class programme levers funding from third parties and partnerships meaning they are involved in research and development projects worth £15m,” he said. “Management changes I have implemented on the back of Potato Council funded research has not only improve our yields and resource efficiency, the changes have allowed my customers to benefit from a more consistent and higher quality supply. Potato Council is vital to ensure GB remains a world leading producer of potatoes.”

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Bruce believes it is important that future generations learn where the potatoes they eat come from, how they grow and that they’re a healthy food.

“A potato is a naturally fat-free source of fibre and vitamin B6; it has more potassium than three bananas; has a lower environmental impact than rice and pasta; and contributes £4.7bn to the GB economy,” he said.

“Potato Council’s education programme is second to none. Since 2005, over 2million primary school children have taken part in ‘Grow Your Own Potatoes’ which is firmly embedded in the schools’ curriculum. In addition, more than 2,000 secondary schools have participated in the ‘Cook Your Own Potatoes’. This ensures the great attributes of my potatoes are embedded through to adulthood and I’ve been actively involved with these campaigns at local shows.”

The 2015-18 business plan can be found at www.potato.org.uk/about-us/governance/corporate-plan. Levy payers have until January 13 to review and give feedback on whether this plan addresses their industry priorities.

Bruce Kerr produces asparagus, cereals, oilseed rape, sugar beet, pea and potato crops close to the Suffolk coast. All his potatoes are marketed through his North Lincolnshire business Arundel Kerr Produce.