The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has allocated funding to the tune of €450,000 to a UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) project supporting potato farming in Ukraine.
The project will involve the transport of 500 tonnes of certified seed potatoes to Ukraine, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue.
FAO Ukraine – a specialised agency of the UN responsible for ending hunger and achieving improved nutrition and food security for all – will distribute these seed potatoes (50 kg per farmer) to 10,000 “highly vulnerable” small-holder farmers in rural areas at the frontline of the illegal Russian aggression in eastern and southern Ukraine.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine leads Ireland’s engagement with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
FAO is the custodian of SDG 2: Zero Hunger, leading international efforts in the fight against hunger and all forms of malnutrition through improving agricultural productivity and governance while bettering the lives of rural populations and contributing to the growth of the world economy.
Before the outbreak of the illegal Russian war, Ukraine imported between 10,000 – 15,000 tonnes of certified seed per annum from other European countries.
Since the outbreak of war, the normal structures of seed potato supply in Ukraine have been broken, and the imports of certified seed input stocks has been “severely hampered”.
Potato farming in Ukraine
With minimal importation of fresh seed, the overall quality of seed potato stocks in Ukraine will be degraded, which will lead to a “significant” reduction of potato yields over time, a DAFM spokesperson said in a statement.
To maintain access to healthy seed stocks and boost the yields of ware crops, it is imperative that farmers have access to imported certified seed potatoes to replenish their own planting material, the spokesperson added.
Ukraine is among the top five potato producers in the world, and the bulk of its production is small-holder farmer based.
In a statement, Minister McConalogue stated that Ireland and Ukraine share many similarities, particularly the huge importance of agriculture has, both economically and socially.
He explained: “I am delighted that my department’s international cooperation funding can support this project to support small-holder farmers in potato production, complementing the supports for smallholder poultry production in Ukraine funded by the government and my department last year.”
The seed potatoes have been grown in the Netherlands and France by growers for the Irish company, IPM Potato Ltd.
Noting that the seed potato varieties have been cultivated especially for agro-ecological conditions in Ukraine, the minister added:
“In addition to saving 10% of the harvest as seed potatoes for the next season, this volume of quality seed potatoes has the potential to produce up to 7,000 tonnes of ware potatoes.”
“This will yield the average annual consumption of potatoes for 45,000 – 50,000 people per year.”
“This FAO project will support efforts to build back agricultural capacity and to assist rural families to resume production for their own household consumption and, in doing so, to meet their immediate food needs,” the minister conclude.