Potato farmers call for more government support to secure future of Jersey Royals industry

Falling demand for Jersey Royals in the UK has led to fewer exports and a reduction in land being cultivated for potatoes. Credit: ITV Channel

A Jersey potato exporter is calling for more financial support from the island's government as deliveries to the UK continue to fall.

In peak season, Albert Bartlett sends 1.5 million packets of Jersey Royals a week to major UK retailers but says that is around 25% less than five years ago, as demand for the product has declined.

To avoid wasted crops, the government recently put limits on how much land can be cultivated for potatoes and to preserve their premium price point, it has also put limits on the amount of exports.

Albert Bartlett exports Jersey Royals for seven independent growers.

Those farmers planted 15% fewer fields this year in tough trading conditions.

"It's changed dramatically," Operations Director Tim Ward explained.

"A very premium product in an inflationary market, it's made it more difficult, so certainly demand has reduced.

"If we don't get the right volume at the right price it makes it very difficult to make money."

Farmers still have to tend land that is being 'rested' and have seen the price of fertiliser double over the last year due to the war in Ukraine.

Jersey Royal potatoes being sorted. Credit: ITV Channel

Mr Ward believes the government should provide more funding to secure the future of the industry.

"I think there's a real concern about the next generation of farmer and where they're going to come from," he added.

"And they're only going to be encouraged into the business if it's profitable, if it's viable, if it's sustainable.

"That needs reinvestment and takes money which means support from government."

However, Jersey's Economic Development Minister is urging farmers to look further than the UK for the Jersey Royal market.

Deputy Kirsten Morel says any extra funding will be focused on researching new markets in Europe and beyond.

"We send oysters to Dubai, ice cream to the far east," he said.

"Why aren't we sending Jersey Royals elsewhere? Jersey has an amazing story to tell about its farming with its high-quality, premium products and I think they would sell in any market.

"It does take time, but that's the journey we've started and that's the journey we're on."

Deputy Morel also praised efforts to diversify Jersey's agricultural industry, such as the project to grow oak saplings for export.

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