The first stage cost £45,000 and a further £60,000 has now been made available for a more detailed study.
f the process is found to be viable – and early research suggests that it would – plans would be put forward for a distillery and possibly a visitor centre.
The industry would also be a new source of employment for Islanders.
he alcoholic spirit produced by the distillation of surplus Jersey Royal potatoes would create a unique branded product, one that would capitalise on the general esteem in which both the name Jersey and the Jersey Royal potato are still held.
s reported last September, when the project was first announced, a successful product could improve the prices paid to growers from their crop towards the end of the export season, use up the entire amount of surplus Royals and eliminate potatoes having to be left in the ground or taken to a recycling station such as Crabbé.
he project is being undertaken by a working party of experts who were invited to participate by the Jersey Potato Export Marketing Board and who reported back this week on the progress so far.
The board’s executive officer, Stuart Smith, said that although funding was still needed – and would, he hoped, be available from other sources – there was sufficient certainty to start the second stage of research.
e said: ‘To continue with this major project, we needed to convince ourselves and all sources of funding of three things: Would it be possible? Would it be profitable? Would people buy it? Our research so far indicates strongly that the answer to all three questions is yes, and we are glad that the committee has agreed that further detailed investigation is valid.
Mr Smith added that detailed forecasts showed that such a project could be making a profit of £5 million after five years.
The task now, he said, would be to examine such things as finding a site for a distillery and visitor centre without planning constraints, looking for capital and carrying out further consumer research – in particular, a major element of the continuing research would involve marketing plans.
his more detailed business plan would in turn lead to a prospectus for investors.
ne of the members of the working party, the retired managing director of Greenwich Distillers, David Ward, said that a distillery in Jersey would not necessarily be limited to the seasonal potato crop, but could also process cereals, for example, to produce other spirits.
There was also an international market for a neutral spirit.
The chairman of the board, Mick Cotillard, said that a further attraction of the scheme would be that providing cereals for distillation could also provide another viable crop for Jersey farmers.
ubject to funding being available, it is possible that commercial trials could be undertaken next year in a German distillery; however, the product would not be produced in Jersey commercially before 2006.
r Smith said: ‘We are not saying at the moment that Jersey Royal vodka is go, but we are saying, so far, so good.