South West Wales

Pembrokeshire potato growers bid to beat rivals

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Media captionHuw Thomas, who runs the growers' co-op, said rival Jersey royals had "ruled the roost" for the last couple of years

Potato producers in Pembrokeshire are launching a publicity campaign to take on their arch rival, the Jersey Royal.

A television advert is the opening shot of a drive to push Pembrokeshire early potatoes up people's shopping lists.

It is part of a wider campaign to give the Pembrokeshire potato the same European brand protection as champagne and Melton Mowbray pork pies.

Huw Thomas, who runs the growers' co-op, said they aimed to "regain the crown" of the early potato season.

Pembrokeshire has been noted for its potato growing since the 18th Century.

With low-lying land close to sea warmed by the Gulf Stream, its milder climate allows for a short growing season, hence its crop of early potatoes.

They are noted for their nutty or earthy flavour and consistent white flesh.

But members of the Haverfordwest-based co-op, Puffin Produce, which represents more than two dozen growers in the county, feel their product should be better known.

More than 100 acres (40 hectares) are given over to supplying major supermarket chains in Wales under the brand, Blas y Tir (Taste of the Land).

They want to expand sales across the border and the advert to be shown on ITV is the beginning of a campaign to make the crop as much of a household name as that other UK early potato, the Jersey Royal.

Co-op managing director Huw Thomas said: "Jersey Royals have ruled the roost for the last couple of years - but we aim to regain the crown.

"Jerseys have got a place very early in the season but our advantage is Pembrokeshire Earlies can go from field to store in less than 24 hours."

"We hope the advert will help us take Blas Y Tir sales to the next level, and follows an overall sales increase for the brand of 300% over the past 12 months."

Image caption Initial crops of the potato are picked by hand

Producers hope a deal with a London-based wholesaler will help them shift more of their spuds to consumers in England.

And to help cement the county's name with its potatoes, the growers' co-op has applied for European Protected Food Name Status as enjoyed by foods such as Parma Ham, Balsamic vinegar and, closer to home, Melton Mowbray pork pies.

Welsh beef and Welsh lamb already are already UK protected food names.

The Protected Geographical Indications or PGI application is for the brand names Pembrokeshire Earlies and Pembrokeshire Early Potatoes.

Mr Thomas added: "We have been focusing heavily on promoting Pembrokeshire Earlies, and we hope that within the next six months they will be granted Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status which will mean only Pembrokeshire Early Potatoes grown here can be labelled as coming from Pembrokeshire."

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