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N.I. potato farmers report one of the worst harvests ever

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Potato farmers in Northern Ireland say they encountered one of the worst harvests ever this year as a long wet season kept machinery out of the fields.

Some farmers said they will lose around one third of their total potato acreage as land was just too inaccessible, while others abandoned any hope of harvest until the New Year.

However, recent snowfalls and heavy frosts may have added to the burden of losing crop in the field. Some farmers were only able to get onto their fields at the end of November due to the harsh conditions underfoot.

Ulster Farmers’ Union potato chairman Robert Sibbett, said potato farmers have experienced one of the worst harvests in living memory. “The long stretch of wet weather has meant that fields have been virtually inaccessible until recently. Some growers have only been able to get into their fields for the first time in November.

“Potatoes are rotting in the field because it’s so wet. I’m normally finished harvesting the potatoes by the time the clocks change. I don’t remember it being this bad since the wet weather in 1985. It’s having a knock-on effect on everything else.

“These unfavourable conditions affect the quantity of marketable produce coming out of the ground. It is proving to be another financially testing harvest.

“Growers are doing their best to adjust to the poor weather and the challenges it brings to harvesting their crops. Growers should continue to market their crops strongly and hope that these efforts are given due merit from buyers, processors and retailers,” said Mr Sibbett.

With the wet harvest conditions, potatoes going into storage have also been affected with rot being reported on some farms.

Certis’ field sales manager, Morley Benson, said: “Persistent rain across the UK has caused water logging in some areas and there are concerns about how well tubers will store once lifted. This year, reports of scab, black leg and tuber blight are not uncommon and harvest delays are likely to increase this pressure.

“Therefore, it’s even more important for growers to protect their crops to ensure quality is maintained from storage, to point of sale or planting as seed,” he added.

by Chris McCullough

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