Mark Taylor column

Mark Taylor

It’s more than 30 years since I started working in the potato supply chain. Back in the mid eighties there were around 25,000 British growers producing crops from 160,000 hectares. Going into 2015 there are 2,000, cropping 121,000ha.

There are very few constants in life, but change is one and I believe it’s here to stay.

Our industry must ensure it is fit for the future and embrace change to deliver positive outcomes. It will be interesting to witness this new supply chain dynamic when the whole industry comes together again for the industry’s annual show – BP2015, held on 12 and 13 November, in Harrogate.

The 2014-2015 season has been hard graft and perhaps one of my most exciting, for many reasons. I remain positive for the future; however I recognise that staying “as is” is not a business plan.

Fenmarc has had a close supply relationship with Asda for over 25 years but with a strong desire to simplify supply chains and to develop closer relationships with growers, Asda’s direct souring arm IPL has just completed the purchase of Fenmarc’s potato division, including Agrimarc.

I’m proud that I have taken the team into the newly-formed business that, given a period of transition, will manage the whole of Asda’s British potato needs. The focus we can bring to both customer and grower needs is very exciting.

Changing consumer purchasing patterns coupled with an ongoing oversupply at home, and in Europe, has resulted in tremendous volatility and severe downward price pressure. Potato Council is the respected source of information for all things potato worldwide and has a readily accessible knowledge base with advice on tap.An open consultation on its 2015-18 business plan has just closed, and its levy payers had seven weeks to review the details and feedback on whether it addresses their industry priorities.

Engaging with and using the independent, evidence-based information that the team at the Potato Council provide is crucial to ensuring the industry moves forward, and I’d encourage industry to get involved with their programmes, events and technical advice. Embrace, engage and make a difference.

On the industry’s behalf the Potato Council is fighting the decline in fresh consumption and any potential loss of chemistry, which as individuals we would be unable to do effectively. Co-ordinating research and knowledge transfer to fight the greatest British crop production threats such as Blackleg and Potato Cyst Nematode is crucial.

The continued support through Potato Council is a must to maintaining efficient and cost-effective production in the face of pest, disease and legislative threats.