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Rains end potato harvesting until new year

Wilson’s Country agronomist Stuart Meredith (left) examines the potato crop with company managing director Lewis Cunningham
Wilson’s Country agronomist Stuart Meredith (left) examines the potato crop with company managing director Lewis Cunningham

By Chris McCullough

Late heavy rain in Northern Ireland has put a stop to any further potato harvesting as ground conditions are not passable.

Around 10% of the country's potato crop is still in the ground but it will be the new year before any more progress is made.

Local potato packer Wilson's Country Ltd says this year was one of the most difficult "in living memory".

Managing director Lewis Cunningham said: "Harvesting operations are over for the year. This has been one of the most trying years in living memory for growers.

"Crops were planted out in challenging conditions. A very dry spell followed which hampered growth rates, but it has been the exceptionally wet autumn that has really hit farmers for six.

"Normally, the bulk of the harvest would have been completed by the end of October. However, the heavy rains of late summer which persisted throughout the autumn have conspired to get us to the stage we find ourselves at today.

"In August the average rainfall for Northern Ireland was 162% of the 30-year average with September at 121%, so as farmers started to lift crops the ground was not in ideal condition."

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He added: "Ground conditions in recent weeks are atrocious, particularly in Co Down, where as a result it has proven impossible for many growers to complete the harvest in a timely fashion."

Poor crop quality has also been a problem. Mr Cunningham said: "Higher levels of bruising and damage have been evident this year, resulting in more grading.

Mr Cunningham suggested the harvest won't continue until the spring time in 2020. "No doubt frost and the expected water logged conditions will further impact on crop yields and quality. However, these matters are totally out of our hands," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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