This week has seen a major push by early potato growers in North Down to get crop into the ground.
“We estimate that 60% of this year’s early crops are now in the ground. But growers are a full two months behind their normal planting schedule,” said Lewis Cunningham, managing director of Wilson’s Country.
“It will take weeks of dry, hot weather to get these crops ready for the normal start of the earlies’ season in late June or early July.
“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. Lewis Hamilton again
“Wilson’s Country estimates that approximately 2,000 acres of potatoes are still in the ground here in Northern Ireland.
“This is 20% of the total planted-out area of last year. However, some are suggesting that the proportion of potatoes not harvested last year was up to 30% of the total area planted out in some regions.”
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 potential for significant loss.
“One good news story for growers is the fact that above average yields from the harvested crop last year has compensated for not having these 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 planting schedule is at least three week’s behind its normal schedule. Bad weather in January and February put a halt to all ‘early’ planting activity.
“Potato growers are totally dependent on the weather to allow then get their crops planted, grown and subsequently harvested.
“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 1990mm per year.
“These records go back over 300 years. And the rain just keeps on falling.
“The good news for local consumers is that potato growers in Northern Ireland consistently produce crops of the highest quality.
“However, the one, possible fly in the ointment is that we may all have to wait an extra week or two to enjoy the sumptuous taste of the first earlies grown in 2018.”