Maincrop potatoes – two weeks ahead of schedule at Wilsons

Angus Wilson, CEO and Lewis Cunningham, Managing Director of Wilson's Country with some of their 'You Say Potato' range. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Angus Wilson, CEO and Lewis Cunningham, Managing Director of Wilson's Country with some of their 'You Say Potato' range. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

The first of this year’s maincrop potatoes will be dug during the second week of July, according to Wilson’s Country CEO Angus Wilson.

“This is almost a fortnight ahead of the usual start date to the season,” he added.

“As a result of the mild spring, crops were planted early and soil conditions have remained excellent. The combination of heat, sunlight and moisture that has characterised the weather over recent weeks has ensured that growth rates have been well above average.”

Wilson also confirmed that Northern Ireland’s potato acreage is up 5% year-on-year, with similar increases also being recorded in ROI and GB market, adding: “The potato year begins, to all intents and purposes on June 1st. The good news for farmers is that there are no carryover ware stocks from the 2016 season. So, essentially we are starting from scratch in 2017.

“The increase in acreage would point to a degree of speculative growing by farmers, who are not specialist producers. There is also some evidence of traditional potato growers planting larger areas this year.

“But the increase in acreage will not automatically translate into an equivalent increase in tonnage later in the year. The weather from now until harvest time will determine the final size of the 2017 crop. Yields are a factor in this equation as will be farmers’ ability to get potatoes actually lifted, should the weather turn bad.

“Disease can also be a factor, where yields and tuber quality are concerned. For example a condition called Black Dot gave rise to concern in 2016. Symptoms of the disease are not apparent at harvest but they can develop in-store.” Wilson indicated that the tone of the potato market is wholly determined by supply and demand.

“The market is finely balanced. It would take only a small degree of oversupply to have a severe impact on grower returns.”

For further information, telephone Wilson’s Country on 028 38391029.