Teagasc has warned of a potential potato shortage later on in the year, as growers battle to get spuds in the ground due to the dismal weather this spring.

John Pettit, tillage business and technology advisor with Teagasc, said that planting is way back on a normal year.

“The bulk of early potatoes should be sown at this stage. It would appear there will be a shortage later on in the year; stocks could get tight in May because there is little or no old season Roosters [in stores].

“Customers will be paying a premium price for potatoes because new season potatoes will be the only thing on the market. The area of potatoes sown could be reduced due to seed availability. Potato farmers are digging further into their pockets to source land,” he said.

While St. Patrick’s Day is traditionally the benchmark to have spuds in the ground, it is proving to be a different story for growers this year.

Along with land being too wet to work, increasing input costs, seed availability and access to land are major issues across the country.

Seed is scarce

“Land isn’t fit for ploughing, never mind planting,” said John Griffin in Co Cork, who mainly grows Queens and Roosters. He said that “costs are up on last year, seed is scarce and expensive”.

Potato planting is way back on a normal year. / Donal O' leary

Donald Logue, an organic potato farmer in north Donegal said seed prices have increased “by a third, and in some cases 50% on last year”. The price of diesel is also up and the cost of land is “sky high”, he said. He anticipates there will be a shortage of potatoes this year.

Peter Garrigan in Dublin has nothing planted yet as “ground is far too wet”, predicting it “will take a long time to dry up”.

He also said that land prices are high. “I’ve heard of some farmers offering €1,000 an acre for good quality ground which is ridiculous.”

Saturated land

Barry Mitchell in Meath has yet to get planting underway, and he said that “land is saturated; there is a lot of work ahead of us”.

“There are still a lot of potatoes left in the ground and some farmers have considerable acreage left,” adding that “there was a lot of harm done by frost”.

He also addressed the issue of seed availability saying that “we’re waiting to get orders in and I don’t think we’ll have enough”.

He said that the scarcity is down to a combination of failed seed crops due to regulations, wet weather and seeds still to be harvested.

“With deep tracks and water lying on land, a really good week of drying is needed before anything is done”. He added that “we have ground ploughed since last autumn for oilseed rape and winter wheat. The dry spell never came and it will have to be ploughed again”.

Despite the frustrating weather, Mitchell concluded that the “weather will make or break you, but it leaves the thing interesting.

“This time six years ago we had snow, and it turned out to be a great summer, so there’s hope yet.”