Can Irish Potatoes Save the World Economy?

For no other reason than it has an interesting title.

Can Irish Potatoes Save the World Economy?

A recent trend, a  move back to the way things used to be, might be the best news for Ireland and the world. A bloated worldwide market of institutional products, produced for their economy rather than quality, shipped hither and to in order that some profit, has put our one world economy into a tailspin. Meanwhile, it just may be, you and your next door neighbor are once again, the only ones capable of picking up the pieces.

Over in Ireland, some local hotels, business people, and organizations are showing us all how.

On of the countries hit hardest by this Great Recession, Ireland,  is of particular interest to me. My folks sailed over to America from Kilkenny back when, but this is not the main reason for my concern over the emerald Isle. Besides an affinity for Ireland, there’s another really good reason to pay attention to the Irish. If there’s anybody on Earth that can show us how to get past hard economic times, it’s Ireland. Rain or shine the Irish always seem to come out okay. Part of the reason being, I believe, Ireland is at its heart a local community first.

If you really want to you can read the whole thing.

27 thoughts on “Can Irish Potatoes Save the World Economy?”

  1. Guys

    I’ve been following and recommending irisheconomy.ie over last number of years, to senior international FS, industry, etc. friends in London, NY, etc. Great technical analysis and comment. Unfortunately, as of late, too much “group speak” trend, I have to say. Also, “Past” focused, very unfortunately.

    I have never posted on a blog before I did today to the following:

    http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/brendan-oconnor-people-will-pay-money-for-a-slice-of-our-heritage-3024195.html

    Not heavy, but heartfelt.

    Irish people, individually and collectively, have achieved great things thus far. However, yes, there are considerable difficulties, the “numbers” are gigantic, Irish people (our families) are suffering, the constant spin is what it is….but is anyone, anywhere talking themselves down….certainly not in the commercial world…not in London, NY, etc.

    Request – more solutions, suggestions, challenges, supports….positivity, please. Leaving the euro would blow away much of what we have achieved in the last twenty years in particular e.g. in the early 1960s, international FDI was miniscule; in 1988, the IFSC was just an idea…look where the likes of these initiatives are today.

    More positive, less fatalistic please.

  2. Hopefully the advocates of a euro exit won’t get their way and Ireland would not need to become a big theme park for Americans and Chinese.

    China leads world production and in Europe Ireland produces about 5% of what the Dutch achieve.

    So if CAP welfare ceased, how many Irish farmers could grow spuds?

    http://www.potato2008.org/en/world/index.html

    A Taiwanese company has a franchise in a number of Asian countries called ‘Ireland Potato’ — chunky chips with herbs.

    The Taiwanese company seems to believe that we are more interested in potatoes than drink. This is what it says:

    THE MEANINGS BEHIND THE BRAND

    The meanings of Ireland Potato can be split in to 3 parts : –

    a) IRELAND

    b) CRAZY

    c) POTATO

    a) Ireland – Ireland country tradition, serious in Potato just like how they treat marriage.

    b) Crazy – Crazy in the sense of they are willing to migrate primarily to the United States just to escape starvation. To them potato is just like a main food for the living. They even leave their homeland in searching for potatoes.

    c) Potato – a diet of potato and milk will supply enough nutrients the human body needs. The potato has long been considered a staple for the poor.

  3. @Michael Hennigan
    You need the whole holy trinity, spuds, milk and cabbage. We bred like rabbits on that diet. The rich had an occasional feed of bacon with the odd fish on Fridays.

  4. Ireland could probably play a bigger role in agri exports if it wasn’t for the difficulties in building up large farms, largely thanks to the plethora of land commission sub-economic units.

    However, Chinese investment in farmland in Africa, especially in Ethiopia, is on a vast and increasing scale. Hard to trump that.

  5. LOL, speaking of hard times.

    One reason potatoes are pretty popular in Russia, is that you can turn them into vodka. Why didn’t that catch on in Ireland ?

  6. A local community first place.

    Unfortunately thats the exact opposite of the mind set of our govt., the EU, and prevailing political orthodoxy.

    There is no such thing as community, society or nations.

    There are only agglomerations of consumers who can be swapped in and out as required.

    Where does community come into that?

  7. At least Mickey Hickey gave me a good laugh. Troika and Rabbit stew, with herbs!

    Let just attempt to feed ourselves entirely on what we can produce here, with some lesser inputs from liquid hydrocarbon fuels and inorganic fertilizer. That will be the real answer. Otherwise you are simply pursuing the same losing strategy, again, and again and again.

    Try urban gardening. Next bubble.

  8. Kavanagh, in hungrier times had this to say about the humble spud
    (From memory)
    Oh half potatoe on my plate
    It is too soon to celebrate
    The centenary of ’48 or even ’47.
    You’re roasted to the centre too
    In wet and soapy soil you grew
    But I am thankful still to you
    For hints of history given.

  9. “Can Irish Potatoes Save the World Economy?”

    Difficult to say but it looks like the chips are down to me.

  10. @ Jagdip

    whats more worrying is the frequent mispelling of the word, including by our own state broadcaster!!

  11. “However, some Irish decision makers too have been mesmerized by the “potential” of trade with China. Foggy idiocy, it appears, is not strictly an American tendency.”

    As I pointed out in another thread the Chinese bring with them their own brand of management technique. It may not be the same as that taught in IMI but who is to say it isn’t more effective?

    “Chinese-owned mine enterprises in Zambia have had stormy relations with local workers over labor and safety policies in recent years. In 2006, Chinese managers at Chambishi shot six miners during a wage protest. Last year, at least 13 Zambian coal miners were shot by their Chinese managers at the Collumn Coal Mine, in the Southern province”

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204618704576642392413811456.html

    As Confucius might have said – “Be careful what you wish for..”
    @EB
    What! RTE misspelled spods?

    What is even more worrying is the misspelling of misspelling:sad:

  12. @Paul W

    “More positive, less fatalistic please”
    +1

    I also agree that article by Brendan O`Connor is very thought provoking with some excellent ideas and constructive opinions.

    IMHO Brendan can write well but sometimes he seems to lose respect for his readers and comes out with some fierce, but well written, gibberish.

    Personally I feel there is enough “bad news” around without having to add to it through “creative” journalism. It may have something to do with the theory that newspapers sell if they make people angry and maybe this has some indirect influence on comments in social media.

    There is also a phnomenon known as the “weatherman sydrome” (actually if I am correct Sindo journalist Declan Lynch has called it “the ? syndrome” but I cannot remember the particular weathermans name) where no one wants to predict things will turn out alright just in case they do not and every one blames the one making the prediction. On the other hand if things turn out alright everybody will be happy and not care about what various “doomsayers” predicted.

    I also have another theory about negativity on social media sites although this site is, IMHO, by far one of the more polite and mature ones around. I call it the “STAYING IN ” syndrome whereby instead of getting plastered down the local(due to restrictions imposed by oneś liver, wallet , young progeny or a combination of all three) people vent their frustration on the keyboard.:)

  13. @genauer
    The indigenous Irish were taught the craft of distilling spirits by the Phoenicians . We have turned all kinds of grain, tubers and starch into alcohol in the past couple of thousand years. In Ireland vodka from potatoes is called poteen the Irish word for potatoes is pratai (praw ti). Poteen is readily available all over Ireland with the best quality coming from Sligo. It is an illegal cottage industry that provides income for some unemployed in hard times.

  14. @Genauer

    You might find it interesting to note that one (possibly the first) of first ships to deliver aid to Germany in 1945 was from Ireland.

    As Neutral Ireland did not import to much during WWII it would not surprise me if much a of the foodstuff on that ship was Irish beef, Irish Lamb, Irish butter, Irish cheese, Solanum Tuberasum (otherwise known as the spud) and Irish soda bread.

    However as we all know, once eaten, bread (and presumably spuds et al) is soon forgot. 🙂

  15. Industrial scale agriculture that the Chinese are pursuing in under developed countries is very much dependent on mechanisation and artificial fertilisers. Both of which are dependent on good and relatively cheap supplies of oil and gas. The old Irish farms sized 3 acres to 40 acres suited to one family and two draft horses were self sufficient and highly productive. This was the model used all over Europe until it fell apart when the British forced the highland clearances in Scotland. Russia (USSR) went whole hog into industrial scale farming for the simple reason that if you have the land, oil and gas it is the most efficient means of production. If on the other hand you do not have the land the oil or the gas and you want to maximise yield per acre then the old Irish model is the way to go.

    There are numerous studies that support small scale farming but only when conditions are right as oil and gas supply gets tight.

  16. FYI

    Spiegel Interview with Kenneth Rogoff

    In an interview with SPIEGEL, Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff, 58, says it was a mistake to bring all the southern European countries into the common currency. He also argues that Greece should be granted a “sabbatical” from the euro and that a United States of Europe may take shape far sooner than many believe.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/0,1518,816071,00.html#ref=nlint

    Thought provoking.

  17. @MH: You raise the interesting matter of ‘technology’. So many folk just take it for granted – it being around a long time, and all. And that technology has some little helpers, who also seem to be somewhat unseen. When, not if, our relatively abundant and (once) inexpensive source of liquid hydrocarbon fuel becomes less abundant … … “Its OK Dr Malthus, you can come back in now!”

    Many small farms have significant ‘verges’ (clay banks, mature trees and Whitethorn) along road frontages and as separators between fields. What might be the effects of removing some of these to increase arable land available? Are they there by custom, or do the have some protective function?

  18. @ David

    That Speigel article is a harrowing read. There were no questions as to whether political union (federalism) would actually be in the interests of EU citizens – whether centralising government functions to Brussels would result in greater welfare across the EU as a whole and in individual countries.

    Shotgun weddings in a time of flux are hardly anything to be “optimistic” about – unless you work on a trading floor.

    Let’s hope we are at least given our referendum in April.

  19. @ mickey hickey

    You would be surprised how many old and emotional memories and associations your “spuds, milk and cabbage” brought up to me.

    I just finished early working today, watching “Fasching”, and being reminded that the only vegetarian meal here is “Kloß” a.k.a. potato dumpling.

    (otherwise very rare) disputes between my mother and father about growing our own “Kartoffeln” (spuds) in our garden, economic nonsense at that time, but part of the war survivor emotional patterns.

    Disputes about buying again overpriced and sub standard quality potatoes from somewhat distant relatives, where my father worked as a servant after WWII, feeding his parents, where he did change out of the uniform,
    when the americans came, and he was taken as a 14-year old on a children crusade (“Volkssturm”).

    His otherwise rare show of disappointment, when I didnt want to hear about how to grow potatoes.

    And I could go on.

    Schnaps was made here also from every available source of starch, but, even after letting the poitin pages settle in, (incl. the gardai) I do not recall one single story of prosecution, methanol poisoning. Both worth to mention.

    But my Kulmbach was a beertown, with 20 breweries (on 25 k inhabitants, well into the 50ties, first long distance export 1831, before refrigeration). As far as I understand temperature control of brewing is more difficult than for distilling, but detecting failure is much easier, you are just barfing, LOL. (Just lookup “FMEA” for nowadays manager speak, ROFL)

    @livonian
    What you say, can very well be.
    People here, close to the former border, only remember the “Amis”, the US. With whom we got along pretty well, including the traditional bar / disco fist fights. They calling us “Nazi” (“Krauts” (Cabbage) didnt really cut it), we calling them “Zupfer” (“cotton picker”) was a traditional way to get things going : – )

    You should have printed “Irish AID” on the enclosings.

    Now more seriously, the Marshall plan was in total something like 5 % of (one-year) GDP, and we are grateful for it. But Greece got already 20 of that. And what we see here also, is that our close neighbors Poland and Czech did so far not see much of EU largesse, but are thriving. The older I get, the more I distrust these “help” injections.

  20. @Brian Woods Snr.
    In the old days of mixed farming one farm would have pasture, oats. barley, wheat, potatoes, mangels, sugar beet, turnips and a kitchen garden with red beet, parsnips, carrots, parsley, cabbage, brussel sprouts, peas. No tomatoes or green beans (grune Bohnen) temperatures too low for ripening. Fields were small and Whitethorn bushes were cheap fencing, the margins were for turning and left in grass to reduce damage with horses and machinery sinking into the disturbed soil. Wind breaks were important particularly for grain crops which as they get ripe are top heavy and when they get wet they can topple over (called lodging in Kerry) in wind and spoil if not harvested immediately by hand. These days hand work is not cost effective so lodged crops spoil.
    @ Genauer
    There is an active Klein Garten movement in Germany, my children used to visit their grandparents in Lubeck where they had a Klein Garten and a cottage. They liked German food except for Bohnen Salat which was plentiful in August and could not be wasted. I also noticed that there are Klein Gartens in Kronberg a high priced suburb of Frankfurt where I also have relatives. Relatives in Miltenberg, Bayern who have a manufacturing business also have 10 hectares of vineyard. My impression is that self sufficiency is still important for Germans as it is in Ireland where a few acres is seen as a good security blanket. I have a 3 1/2 year old grandson who attends Deutsche Schule and corrects my German pronunciation. He has decided his Oma is the expert and he is definitely right.

  21. @Brian Woods Snr

    The verges or margins are called the headland in Kerry. On small farms the grass/hay on the headland would be cut with a scythe and fed to the animals, this also eliminated weeds. There was very little waste on small farms, even the boiled potato skins were fed to the pigs except in Cork where people actually ate them. In Kerry there was a little rhyme:
    Aroo fom Cork
    I am aroo
    Do ye eat potatoes
    Indeed we do
    Skins and all

  22. @ Mickey Hickey

    The last bit was

    ‘How do ye ate them
    Skin and all
    Do they choke ye
    Not at all’ 🙂

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