21-02-2014 08:00 AM | News

Potatoes: An important crop for GB



Potato Council acts as a knowledge house for Government raising the importance of the potato. Two years since this work programme started there has been a real increase in knowledge about potatoes amongst parliamentarians with 83% now regarding potatoes as an important crop.

In that time, there has been a 19 percentage point increase in those who know that potatoes are naturally fat free (equating to one in five MPs) and a 16 percentage point increase in those who now recognise that they are a low impact crop (one in six MPs).

Caroline Evans, head of marketing and corporate affairs at Potato Council, commented: “The potato industry contributes more than £4.7bn to the GB economy, including £209m in exports, and employs over 16,000 people. It is key that we build knowledge about this amongst parliamentarians so that they recognise the value of the industry to the country and consider this when making decisions.”

“With healthy and sustainable credentials, potatoes have a strong story to tell. These latest results show that the programme is building awareness amongst parliamentarians about the industry and the importance of potatoes to our country. In the last year alone we’ve met with 34 parliamentarians in Westminster or in their constituencies, as well as sending briefings out on a range of topics.”

We recently published a report summarising the findings from a parliamentary roundtable examining the role of potatoes in a healthy and sustainable diet. Organised by Potato Council and chaired by the Rt Hon Sir Jim Paice MP, the roundtable reviewed new research by Cranfield University comparing water usage and Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGE) of potatoes, rice and pasta.

Dr Tim Hess presented key findings from the Cranfield research, which show that rice typically has a larger water footprint and greater GHGE than potatoes or pasta.

Maureen Strong, nutrition manager, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and co-chair of the Healthy and Sustainable Diet Working Group of the Green Food Project¹ highlighted the key findings of the Green Food Project. She explained that one of the eight key principles of a healthy and sustainable diet was to eat more plant-based foods, including at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. She also said that consumption of starchy carbohydrates is currently below government guidance.

The roundtable was well attended by parliamentarians including Huw Irranca-Davies MP, Shadow Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Baroness Parminter, Co-Chair of DEFRA/DECC Parliamentary Party Committee. They were joined by nutritionists, retailers, academics and representatives of the potato industry.

A number of key recommendations were made and it was agreed that government and industry have a joint responsibility to promote potatoes as a healthy and sustainable food. It was also tabled that Public Health England (PHE) should build on the success of the ‘5 a day’ campaign and develop simple, clear campaigns targeting consumers which include potatoes.

Caroline said: ““The roundtable was an opportunity to show that potatoes are an important contributor, both to the environment and also to public health, and to engage a range of experts in discussion about how to increase consumption. It will provide a platform to present the evidence on the value of the potato industry to the economy, the health agenda and climate change targets. The findings in the report will be shared with parliamentarians and other stakeholders.”

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