Farming

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Potato price rises 450pc in less than six months

Potato prices have taken a dramatic turn with a 450pc increase in less than six months.

Last March, returns languished below the cost of production with growers receiving little more than €120/t for the washed trade. Today, the same potatoes are making up to €560/t -- at least €200/t higher than the typical prices paid at this time of the year.

"Potatoes are so scarce this year that some growers are being contacted by merchants looking for the smallest grade that would have normally only gone for cattle feed," said agronomist, Richie Hackett.

The poor summer has reduced yields by at least 30pc on last year, according to IFA potato chairman Thomas Carpenter.

"Where we were harvesting up to 17t/ac last year, many will struggle to achieve more than 10t/ac this year," he said.

In addition, the national acreage of potatoes has slumped to an all-time low at close to 21,000ac. The combined effect of a lower acreage and poor yields is set to reduce the total tonnage available by almost 40pc, triggering a scramble by all the main potato buyers to secure adequate supplies.

"There is going to be a big shortage of potatoes this year since the usual fallback of British crop has also evaporated, with total output there down by 1.5m tonnes this year," Mr Carpenter said.

"The yield slump is out of everybody's hands but blame for the fall in acreage can be laid squarely at the door of the supermarkets who ran down the price for the product over the past number of years."

Hackett believes the current price levels will be maintained until harvesting of the main crop begins.

"There's a lot of wet weather diseases such as blackleg affecting the crop this year which will force farmers to offload their crop quicker than in previous years. This could soften the market," he said.

But he does not expect the price of potatoes in supermarkets to increase significantly.

"There is unlikely to be much change in the price that the consumer will notice. But there may be less product offered as loss leaders," he said.

Indo Farming