A new initiative which is aimed at helping Irish potato growers get their produce into Irish chip shops has been launched today.

Bord Bia, Teagasc, the IFA and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine are joining forces to increase the volume of home-grown potatoes sold in Irish chip shops.

Ireland grows about 300,000 tonnes of potatoes a year for domestic consumption, but the country still imports 80,000 tonnes, or €45m worth, of potatoes a year.

64,000 tonnes of potatoes come from the UK and the majority of these fresh potato imports are used by chip shop owners.

There are currently over 530 independent chip shops in the country.

Meadowfresh Foods based in Tallow in Co Waterford and O'Shea Farms/Iverk Produce, based in Piltown in Co Kilkenny have joined forces to become the country's first dedicated fresh chipping potato packer and distributor.

Over the past two years, Meadowfresh and O'Shea Farms have engaged with Bord Bia, Teagasc and the IFA to support the chipping potato project and proceeded to grow specific crops for the Irish chip shop channel.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Pippa Hackett pictured with Marie Geary of Meadowfresh Farm

Opening a new distribution centre as well as visiting a new purpose built storage facility, the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine said a storage facility which maintains the correct sugar and starch levels in potatoes, as well as keeping them fresh beyond the winter period, is absolutely key to producing the quality that is needed in good chipping potatoes.

"So the development of such a facility, along with the official opening today of Ireland's first dedicated potato packer and distributor focusing on the exclusive growing of potatoes for chipping, is a real opportunity for Irish growers to supply home-grown potatoes for the Irish chip shop market," Pippa Hackett said.

Ms Hackett said that growing chipping potatoes is a specialist operation, and the market for them is valued at about €20m a year.

"I think the Irish consumer, given the choice, will really appreciate businesses that support local growers," she added.