Farm Ireland

Friday 24 November 2017

Supplies of early potato varieties fall 40pc

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

A 40pc drop in supplies of early potato varieties like Homeguard and British Queens is on the cards this year due to a shortage of seed potatoes.

Poor yields in the 2012 early seed potato crop, combined with severe delays in fieldwork due to bad ground conditions, are expected to slash the early potato crop by up to 300ha.

Teagasc potato expert Shay Phelan said as each week passed, growers were getting more concerned about the lack of fieldwork and the condition of seed in sprouting trays.

"Seed supplies are down to about 60-70 per cent of normal this year," said Mr Phelan.

"We are expecting the early potato harvest to be around 1,000ha, compared to a normal crop of up to 1,300ha."

Growers are expected to make up some of the shortfall in certified early seed potatoes with some home-saved seed, but they are also trying to source seed from Israel, Cyrpus and Spain.

However, the condition of seed in storage is also a concern.

"In the absence of adequate light many sprouts are already too long and will probably be damaged during planting," said Mr Phelan.

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There is only a fortnight left in the window for planting Homeguard, while the cut-off for British Queens is about one month from now.

In the absence of imported or homesaved seed, some growers are expected to switch from early potatoes to main crop varieties such as Rooster, Kerr's Pink, Golden Wonder and Records.

"Most growers of main crop potatoes will get the varieties and amounts of seed they need, provided they order early enough," said Mr Phelan.

Meanwhile, the Teagasc expert estimated that the national potato crop in 2013 would remain similar to 2012 levels, at around 10,000ha including seed crops.

Potato prices surged in the past 12 months due to a shortage of potatoes. Prices for a 10kg bag of Roosters are averaging €6.50, while Kerr's Pink are making €7/10kg bag. Golden Wonders are selling for €9.75/10kg bag and Records have hit €8/10kg bag.

Irish Independent