Chips manufacturer McCain is investing £25 million in the British potato industry to help it cope with Covid-19 and climate change.
The investment by the company, the UK’s biggest manufacturer of frozen potato products, aims to help British farmers manage the increasingly erratic weather caused by climate change, as well as the pandemic.
Some 40% of the investment will come this year to help with the fallout from weather extremes and Covid-19, which shut down the hospitality sector, leaving a backlog of potatoes which could not be used.
Alongside the pledge of money, McCain said it had been working with farmers left with potatoes because bars and restaurants had closed.
As part of work to honour all grower contracts, the company said it had been minimising waste by reallocating potato varieties from food service to retail product lines, donating surplus stock to food banks via FareShare and, where possible, storing potatoes for use next season.
The £25m investment will include a three to five-year loyalty scheme rewarding farmers who continue to grow potatoes, and a grant scheme for growers to provide funding for improvements such as self-propelled harvesters and irrigation infrastructure.
Howard Snape, regional president at McCain GB and Ireland, said: “Today’s investment will not only help the potato industry but will also strengthen McCain’s partnerships with farmers and support the wider supply chain, including our customers and suppliers.”
NFU president Minette Batters said: “Following two seasons of extreme weather impact followed by Covid-19 market disruption, growers need all the support they can get to have the confidence to grow into the future.
“We’re therefore pleased to see McCain taking a leadership position,” she added.