Warnings of potato shortages over Christmas have been dismissed as rubbish by the trade.

Growers and Teagasc insisted that there are sufficient supplies of potatoes in store to meet seasonal demands, despite harvesting being halted by the recent cold snap.

“There will be no shortage of potatoes this Christmas,” said IFA potato chair Seán Ryan.

“Any tightness in the supply of potatoes is likely to occur in March or April,” he maintained.

This view was shared by Shay Phelan of Teagasc, who said reports of shortages over the holiday season were “nonsense”.

Severe frosts

However, both Teagasc and the IFA estimate that around 10-15% of the country’s spuds could be left in the ground until the spring due to this week’s severe frosts.

The collapse in temperatures brought the lifting of potatoes to a halt across much of the country, as growers wait to see if crops have been impacted.

Farmers pointed out that the heavy rains since August meant that much of the clay cover has been washed off the potatoes in the drills.

Potatoes affected by frost will eventually rot, Ryan explained, so farmers are letting that happen in the field.

While the vast bulk of the country’s 18,000ac of spuds were harvested prior to the cold snap – with a lot of work completed last week – progress has varied greatly.

The heavy rains during the back end of the year have seriously disrupted the harvest in the south and southeast, while progress has also been slow on heavier ground in the midlands.

Yields of saleable potatoes are back 15-30% depending on the variety, according to growers.

Yields of Queens are back 30%, with Rooster yields down 15-20%.

Ryan said IFA will continue to lobby for a compensation package for potato growers, similar to that secured for the cereal sector.