Belfast Telegraph

Bad weather delays potato harvest by a further month

By Richard Halleron

Local food connoisseurs will have to wait an extra month before they can enjoy the first of this year's early potato crops, an industry expert has said.

Bad weather meant crops were put into the ground two months later than normal.

While better conditions have improved growth rates, it is likely to be late June before potatoes are ready to be harvested.

Wilson's Country managing director Lewis Cunningham said: "Normally, growers would be digging crops at the end of May.

"But this year, we are looking at a date that is closer to the end of June."

Wilson's Country is a major exhibitor in the food hall at this year's Balmoral Show.

Mr Cunningham said the recent spell of improved weather is helping to boost the growth rates of early sown potatoes.

"Crops actually went into the ground a full two months after their normal sowing date. This was a direct result of the atrocious weather that so characterised March and early April," he revealed.

"But it will take weeks of dry, hot weather to get these crops ready for harvest in late June.

"And, in this country, such growing conditions can never be guaranteed."

The delay in planting earlies follows on from a very poor 2017 main crop harvest period.

Mr Cunningham said around a fifth of last year's crop didn't get harvested.

He said: "We estimate that approximately 2,000 acres of potatoes didn't get lifted at harvest last year, and were, subsequently, overwinter in the ground.

"This is 20% of the total planted out area in 2017. "

He added: "Widespread frosts over the last few months will have penetrated the ground, down to two or three inches in places and with lots of rain in between the frosts, the quality of these crops is really in question and hence growers face significant losses.

"Above average yields from the crops that were harvested last year has compensated for not having the overwintered crops available. As a result, the overall market is not seeing any rallying in price."

Meanwhile, on the island of Jersey, the home of the Jersey Royal, this year's early planting schedule is at least three weeks behind its normal schedule. Bad weather in January and February put a halt to all field work.

"Potato growers are totally dependent on the weather to allow them to get their crops planted, grown and subsequently harvested," Mr Cunningham explained.

"According to the latest records, the decade from 2006 to 2015 was Ireland's wettest on record, with a 10-year average rainfall of almost 1,990mm per year."

Belfast Telegraph

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.

Popular