Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Irish potato prices double as harvest falls across EU

Potatoes.
Potatoes.
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

A 10-million-tonne drop in the EU potato harvest has fuelled a surge in Irish spud prices.

Supplies across Europe have fallen 13.5pc this harvest, dropping from 64.6 million tonnes in 2017 to 54.4 million tonnes this year, as a result of this summer's drought.

The shortage of supplies across the EU has been reflected in a sharp increase in local prices, which have increased to €450-500/t for main-crop varieties.

This represents almost a doubling in price compared to 2017, when supplies generally made €220-280/t.

Industry sources point out that the absence of imported alternatives for the service end of the market has helped put a floor on the trade.

While potatoes for the lower end of the trade - peeled spuds for restaurants and chip shops - made just €60-80/t last year, buyers are having to pay €340-350/t at the moment because they can't import cheaper supplies from Britain or Europe.

The drop in potato yields across Europe was mirrored in the Irish harvest, with the total tonnage expected to be back by as much as 30pc.

While Irish growers supplied 400,000 tonnes to the market in 2017, the figure for this harvest is expected to be around 280,000 tonnes.

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This is due to a combination of lower yields and a smaller area sown, explained Pat Farrell of the IFA.

Drought

He pointed out that average yields this year fell from 18t/ac to 14t/ac as a result of the drought.

In addition, the area sown to potatoes at 7,870ha this year was 12pc back on 2017, and 15pc under the average for the last five years of 9,300ha.

North Dublin agricultural consultant Richie Hackett said the potato harvest around the capital was more or less wrapped up.

He described harvest conditions this year as excellent, with the growers making the most of a very good back end.

Mr Hackett said that growers had taken a chance in allowing crops to bulk up through September - and the gamble paid off.

Pat Farrell said the harvest was 95pc complete nationally, with the remainder of the crop likely to be lifted over the next fortnight given the continuing dry conditions.

Main-crop prices hit €450-500/t on back of 10m-tonne drop in autumn supplies

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