A third generation potato business

9 Jun , 2015  

The Griffin’s have been growing potatoes in Carrigaline, Co. Cork since the 1940s. The third generation family business takes great pride in growing and packing a wide variety of potatoes which are sold in shops and supermarkets throughout Munster.

In the county where it is said that Sir Walter Raleigh planted the first potatoes in Ireland is one of Munster’s longest established and most respected potato producers, Griffin’s Potatoes. The Griffin family grows approximately 3,000 tonnes of quality potatoes annually on 200 acres of rented land in Carrigaline, Co. Cork, which they supply to wholesalers, supermarket chains and retail outlets in Cork and beyond.

The Irish know their potatoes better than anyone, so the Griffin’s take great pride in the care and skill with which they grow potatoes. They give their potatoes all the attention they need to ensure they arrive on the consumer’s plate in prime condition. The Griffin’s strive to provide the highest quality potatoes which meet the standards of the Irish consumer, while being mindful of the environment. Their passion for producing the best keeps them focused and promotes continuous improvement.

The family tradition of growing potatoes began 70 years ago when the late Sean Griffin grew five acres of potatoes for the market in Cork. The business has come a long way since then and is now headed up by Sean’s son Jim and grandson John. They are assisted by their wives Rose and Martina as well as two full-time staff, who are actively involved in the day-to-day growing, harvesting, storage and packing of the potatoes.

During the busy harvest season, the Griffin’s take on additional staff. The harvesting is carried out by local agricultural contractors Richard Gotto, Lloyd Forbes and Jonathan Chambers.

The potato cycle begins in March/April when planting takes place, followed by the harvesting in September/October. In between, the potatoes are sprayed every 10 days to control and prevent the spread of potato blight, which can wipe out a crop overnight.

The Griffin’s grow a variety of potatoes to suit every taste. These include Roosters, Kerr’s Pink, Queen’s, Golden Wonders and Salad Potatoes. Roosters and Kerr’s Pink are their best sellers. Red-skinned, yellow-fleshed, easy to cook any way and hardy, Roosters are the most widely grown potato in Ireland which are traditionally harvested from August through November.

Kerr’s Pink, with their white-to-pink skin colour, are flourier than the Rooster. This is another Irish favourite that has traditionally been grown in counties Cork, Kerry and Donegal. Queen’s are also very popular. They are a mainstay of the summer with their white skin and flesh, excellent floury texture and beautiful taste. They can be used for boiling, steaming, roasting and chipping.

Once the potatoes are harvested, they are washed, graded and packed in Griffin’s state-of-the-art packhouse, which offers ideal handling and storage conditions. The potatoes are stored at a temperature of 3 ° C.

The potatoes arrive in the shops in 1kg, 2.5kg, 5kg and 10kg bags. “The day of the four-stone (25kg) bag is gone. Families aren’t as big as they us to be, so potatoes aren’t been consumed in the same quantity. Having said that, our sales haven’t fallen because we have a more varied market now. The market for salad potatoes is growing at a fast pace,” Jim Griffin says.

Among the retailers / wholesalers the Griffin’s supply to are the Tesco outlets in Mallow, Douglas and Midleton, the SuperValu shops in Carrigaline, Kinsale and Blarney, Centra Crosshaven and Meadow Fresh Foods in Tallow, Co. Waterford.

Similar to last year, 2014 looks set to produce a bumper crop, but there can be a downside to this as Jim explains: “The growing conditions have been very, very good so we’re expecting another big crop this year. But the problem when you have a big crop is that it can lead to oversupply in the marketplace and lower prices for the grower.

“It’s difficult to find a happy medium. The business is getting tougher and tougher because of increased competition and less consumption.”

The Griffin’s are members of the IFA’s National Potato Committee which represents Ireland’s 600 commercial potato growers. Currently chaired by Kilkenny grower Eddie Doyle, its members are elected by the IFA’s county executives where potatoes are produced. The National Potato Committee’s most important issues include potato prices, input costs, potato farmers’ incomes, retailed activity, industry developments and the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme.

Jim Griffin served as National Potato Committee chairman in 2008/09, while John is the current representative for Central Cork. Other well-known potato growers on the Committee are Charles Doherty (Donegal), Paddy Reynolds (Meath), Larry Whelan (Wexford) and John Brady (Wicklow).

Jim believes more needs to be done to market potatoes in the face of growing competition from other staple foods such as pasta and rice.

“Bord Bia will shortly be launching an advertising campa;ign to promote potatoes and it’s important that every potato grower supports it,” he says.

“The consumption of potatoes is falling in this country and we can’t allow this to continue. Potatoes can be just as convenient and as easy to prepare as rice, pasta or frozen potato products. They are widely accepted as a ‘feel good’ food that satisfies hunger for longer.

“There is also a perception that potatoes are fattening, which isn’t the case at all. This is a misconception that needs to be addressed.  In addition, potatoes are an ideal source of energy for an active lifestyle and go hand-in-hand with all the traditional meals we have in this country.”

Griffin’s Potatoes
Co. Cork.

Telephone: 087 2542746

Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 2 No 4, September 2014