POTATOES could soon be in short supply as thousands of acres of the crop have been frozen into the ground.
And shoppers could be forced to pay out more for them if prices rise to compensate for dwindling supplies, with carrots, cauliflower and other winter vegetables also at risk.
Some €15m of potato crops have been lost to the cold snap, with 6,000 acres remaining unharvested as a result of the weather, the Irish Farmers Association claimed yesterday.
At least three-quarters of these crops will be lost as potatoes that have been frozen solid in the ground will rot and turn to mush when it thaws, said IFA Potato Committee Chairman Thomas Carpenter.
And though there is no shortage of potatoes on supermarket shelves currently, farmers will need higher prices to survive the heavy losses, he said.
While enough potatoes were in store to keep shops supplied for weeks to come, Ireland's 500-600 commercial potato growers would suffer significant losses.
"The situation is a wipeout for growers who endured a very difficult season with low prices for their produce, rising input costs and the worst weather conditions for years," said Mr Carpenter.
Retailers must respond immediately by paying farmers a viable price for potatoes, he said. The IFA also called on Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith to provide a support package for our farmers.
Tesco said there was no problem with potato supplies at the moment and they would always seek to buy Irish vegetables.
The Department of Agriculture said: "There are no plans to provide financial assistance to those growers affected by recent weather conditions."
Meanwhile, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association has been forced to postpone its annual conference and AGM because freezing conditions are set to continue and many roads are impassable.
The event, due to be held in Limerick tomorrow, has been rescheduled for January 28.