Farm Ireland

Sunday 25 February 2018

Potato price hits highest for 20 years

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

A sharp fall in the number of acres sown to potatoes, combined with a yield reduction of 20-30pc have pushed the price of the humble spud to its highest level in over 20 years.

Potatoes are currently making €500-600/t bulk ex-farm, almost triple what they were worth at the same time last year.

However, the current high prices are only just enough to help potato growers out of the debts they incurred in the past two years, the IFA maintained.

"Potato growers lost around €25m last year, selling their crop for just €140-180/t bulk," said IFA potato expert Matt Molloy.

"What they are getting for spuds this year will just about get them out of the hole they were in for the past few years."

With around 85pc of the national potato harvest now complete, it looks like potato yields for this year are down 20-30pc.

Cold and wet weather cut both the number and size of potato tubers on each plant, slashing the tonnage of spuds harvested per acre.

The yield reduction came on top of a 25pc fall in the acreage sown to potatoes as growers took 7,500ac of the crop out of production.

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"Growers simply got out because they couldn't make any profit as the supermarket multiples engaged in prices wars on potatoes and other vegetables," maintained Mr Molloy.

The shortfall in potato supplies in Ireland is being mirrored elsewhere in Europe after the weather took a major toll on crops.

The North-Western European Potato Growers Association has predicted a 16.7pc fall in the amount of potatoes harvested in Germany, Belgium, France, Britain and the Netherlands in 2012 compared to 2011.

The fall is the equivalent of a 10cp reduction on the five-year average for those countries.

The potato harvest in Britain is expected to finish 25pc lower than 2011, because of a five per cent reduction in acreage and poor yields of 37.4t/ha.

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