UK farms’ vegetables prove a hit in Bahrain




A farm in Northern Ireland has generated millions in extra revenue by exporting mash and other vegetables side dishes to the Middle East, The Telegraph reported yesterday.

Mash Direct, which produces 40 “vegetable accompaniments” using British produce, sells its range through Tesco and Asda in the UK, but has found appetite for its products in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the report said.

Sales of its baby potatoes with chilli have rocketed, as has demand for its veggie burgers, driving up revenues by £2m to hit a forecast £16m this year.

“International sales represent less than 20 per cent of total revenue at the moment. But exports will be a significant growth market for the business, according to Mash Direct founder Martin Hamilton.

Hamilton founded the business in 2004 to cater to time-poor professionals seeking fast food that tasted home-cooked. “No one wants to come home from work and peel potatoes,” he said.

The company started with four staff and a single rented van, and now employs 175 people from a newly expanded factory in Comber.

Mash Direct provides a crucial revenue stream to the 64 UK farms, which supply the business. “Potato is in decline,” said Hamilton. “No one takes home a sack of potatoes to deal with over a week or two any more. People want convenience.”

“As a farmer myself, I make sure I pay a fair price. The carry-on where companies pay farmers at the bottom end of the market and watch them go out of business is unacceptable, ” the Telegraph quoted him.

The next export target for Mash Direct is the US, and negotiations with customers on the east coast are already underway.

Martin and his wife Tracy had been successfully growing and selling vegetables for over 25 years, Martin himself being a fifth generation son of the soil.

They decided to return to the traditional tastes their mothers and grandmothers used to know. Using vegetable varieties grown for taste – not appearance – they developed a small plant on the farm to recreate a traditional cooking style.

A number of pieces of equipment were specially built by his friend Tony, including a unique masher and a steam cooker and Mash Direct was ready to begin.

The only thing that was left were the potatoes. Martin and his two sons, Lance and Jack, went out to the fields and harvested the first Mash Direct crop.


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