Growers are facing huge battles with harvesting this year’s potato crops and delayed planting could result in a shortage in 2024, according to Tom Murray, agronomist with O’Shea farms in Co Kilkenny. He described harvest circumstances as a “salvage operation,” saying that after a late and wet spring, such a wet autumn is rare.

“The potatoes were sown too late and won’t ever reach their full potential,” he said, adding that while 2012 was a difficult year, this year’s autumn is far worse.

All risk on the grower

Murray went on to say that the “mood among growers is poor, they have a lot of money and time invested between seeds, fertiliser and the higher harvest cost as they can’t dig as much in one day with these conditions”. He stated that “growers bear the costs, with no one else bearing as much risk”.

“There is a significant drying cost this year, bacterial soft rot is entering stores and is difficult to control, and fans are drying to prevent the wet crop from becoming a total waste.”

Even if a large portion of the produce is left in the ground, the growers’ store bill will be significant, according to Murray.

Supply issue

There will be a supply shortage in 2024, he said. He stated that crops “have yet to be planted; later planting will result in a shortage”. There are also challenges with seed supplies, which have put the horticulture business on the back foot.

There is “no succession for growers, anyone getting out of this work is bringing the knowledge with them and leaving a shortage of growers going forward”.

He concluded by urging “consumers to buy Irish produce if it is available and to stand behind the growers at this time”.