This year’s potato harvest is the worst in recent memory, which is rapidly turning into a salvage operation as drills are underwater following recent flooding, Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) potato committee chair Seán Ryan has said.
“As it stands, around 60% of crop remains to be harvested. Sizeable losses have occurred already, which will likely substantially increase as we progress through the harvest,” Ryan said.
Met Éireann data shows some weather stations have already exceeded the average annual total rainfall and others close to it, he said.
“Now that we are in November, we are in extremely difficult territory with this much crop left to be harvested."
“The heavy rain has washed most of the clay off the top of the drills, which leaves the crop more prove to frost damage. A few hard frosts at this point will wipe out entire crops,” he added.
The 2023 potato season was always going to be a late year, as crops were planted very late due to weather conditions in the springtime, the IFA said, adding that maturation was slow and crops were a minimum of six weeks behind schedule before the current weather conditions kicked in.
“This year, potato growers were forced to harvest in reverse due to weather conditions.
"Dry fields were harvested first, leaving the wetter ground to be harvested now. Very little potatoes have been harvested into stores to date, as the market absorbed a lot of crops as they were harvested,” the IFA potato committee chair said.
“With more heavy rain forecast on already saturated ground, it looks like there will be no let-up for growers in the near future.
"Growers will not be able absorb the financial hit if crops are lost due to weather damage and are going to need to be supported if we want to ensure the medium-term survival of the sector,” he concluded.