Weather plays havoc with potato planting
Heavy losses predicted on back of 'disastrous' winter and spring
Just one third of the potato crop is in the ground in many parts of Cork, as the continuing poor weather plays havoc with plantings.
Southern growers report that many early potato varieties are only now being sown, with plantings of the main crop a month behind schedule.
Vegetable growers have also been badly affected, with heavy losses predicted in the sector following a disastrous winter and spring.
John Griffin from Carrigaline outside Cork city said that just 25-30pc of the potato crop in his area has been sown.
He has 55ac planted but has a further 145ac to do over the next 10 days. However, he said many tillage farmers concentrated on getting spring cereal crops into the ground over the last fortnight and haven't started into spuds yet.
Mr Griffin said progress had been severely disrupted by the poor weather, with 20mm of rain on Thursday night and Friday setting back planting for much of the weekend.
He said the cold snaps in March and heavy rain during most of the spring is certain to have an impact on the overall acreage sown.
"We have some ground that we now won't plant at all; we'll put it in maize instead, in case November comes bad," Mr Griffin explained.
Nora Sheehan said yields would inevitably be hit as a result of the late sowings and poor ground conditions.
The Castletownroche grower, who is vice-chair of the IFA potato committee, said poor yields and low prices were already posing a serious threat to the wider vegetable sector.
Ms Sheehan pointed out that both harvesting and planting of many vegetable crops had been badly hit.
Local supplies of carrots, parsnips and cauliflowers had yet to be harvested, she said, while the spring cabbage crop was three weeks later than usual.
Despite the delay, however, special offers in the supermarkets meant that wholesalers were already trying to force down the price of spring cabbage.
"Family growers like ourselves are really under pressure," Ms Sheehan said.
"We're dependent on the wholesale market, but below cost selling in the supermarkets is undermining growers," she explained.
"Do people realise that growers cut spring cabbage and cauliflower by hand.
"There is no machine to do it," she added.
Ms Sheehan claimed that small and medium-sized family operations will struggle to survive this year unless price rises can be secured.
Meanwhile, in north Leinster potato sowings are finally coming to a close. Ollie White from The Naul in Co Dublin said he was down to the last 20ac this week.
He said battling with the weather this spring meant that getting soils right for planting was "like turning hay".
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