Weather plays havoc with potato planting

Heavy losses pre­dicted on back of ‘dis­as­trous’ winter and spring

Irish Independent - Farming - - NEWS - CLAIRE FOX

JUST one third of the potato crop is in the ground in many parts of Cork, as the con­tin­u­ing poor weather plays havoc with plant­ings.

South­ern grow­ers re­port that many early potato va­ri­eties are only now be­ing sown, with plant­ings of the main crop a month be­hind sched­ule.

Veg­etable grow­ers have also been badly af­fected, with heavy losses pre­dicted in the sec­tor fol­low­ing a dis­as­trous winter and spring.

John Grif­fin from Car­ri­ga­line out­side Cork city said that just 25-30pc of the potato crop in his area has been sown.

He has 55ac planted but has a fur­ther 145ac to do over the next 10 days. How­ever, he said many tillage farm­ers con­cen- trated on get­ting spring ce­real crops into the ground over the last fort­night and haven’t started into spuds yet.

Mr Grif­fin said progress had been se­verely dis­rupted by the poor weather, with 20mm of rain on Thurs­day night and Fri­day set­ting back planting for much of the week­end.

He said the cold snaps in March and heavy rain dur­ing most of the spring is cer­tain to have an im­pact on the over­all acreage sown.

“We have some ground that we now won’t plant at all; we’ll put it in maize in­stead, in case Novem­ber comes bad,” Mr Grif­fin ex­plained.

Nora Shee­han said yields would in­evitably be hit as a re­sult of the late sow­ings and poor ground con­di­tions.

The Castle­town­roche grow- er, who is vice-chair of the IFA potato com­mit­tee, said poor yields and low prices were al­ready pos­ing a se­ri­ous threat to the wider veg­etable sec­tor.

Ms Shee­han pointed out that both har­vest­ing and planting of many veg­etable crops had been badly hit.

Whole­salers

Lo­cal sup­plies of car­rots, parsnips and cauliflow­ers had yet to be har­vested, she said, while the spring cab­bage crop was three weeks later than usual.

De­spite the de­lay, how­ever, spe­cial of­fers in the su­per­mar­kets meant that whole­salers were al­ready try­ing to force down the price of spring cab­bage.

“Fam­ily grow­ers like our­selves are re­ally un­der pres­sure,” Ms Shee­han said.

“We’re de­pen­dent on the whole­sale mar­ket, but be­low cost selling in the su­per­mar­kets is un­der­min­ing grow­ers,” she ex­plained.

“Do peo­ple re­alise that grow­ers cut spring cab­bage and cauliflower by hand.

“There is no ma­chine to do it,” she added.

Ms Shee­han claimed that small and medium-sized fam­ily op­er­a­tions will strug­gle to sur­vive this year un­less price rises can be se­cured.

Mean­while, in north Le­in­ster potato sow­ings are fi­nally com­ing to a close. Ol­lie White from The Naul in Co Dublin said he was down to the last 20ac this week.

He said bat­tling with the weather this spring meant that get­ting soils right for planting was “like turn­ing hay”.

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