Heavy rain leaves Northern Ireland potato farmers behind schedule in planting this season's crops
This year has seen the latest ever planting of early potatoes in Northern Ireland as farmers battle poor weather conditions, according to industry leaders.
It is understood potato growers still have not lifted large swathes of their harvests from last year and many are already behind schedule planting this season's early crops.
Lewis Cunningham, managing director of Craigavon-based potato firm Wilson's Country, said they estimated that 60% of this year's early crops have been planted, but growers are nearly a full two months behind their normal planting schedule.
Robert Sibbett, chair of the Ulster Farmers' Union's potato committee, said that for many farmers in Northern Ireland, the situation is becoming critical.
"This is a problem across Northern Ireland and for many farmers it is even worse than a one or two month delay," he said.
"Being a farmer in Northern Ireland, you can never really rely on the weather, but this year has been particularly bad. It has just been constant rain and it's very, very cold. I know potato farmers who were supposed to be planting in January and still haven't.
"Things were drying up for a week or so there, but the weekend just brought with it more rain and here we are back to square one again."
Mr Cunningham said this week has seen a major push by early potato growers in North Down to get their crops in the ground.