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We've had our chips as heatwave may see spud prices double

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Brendan O’Gorman says potato yield may be down by a quarter. Photo: INM

Brendan O’Gorman says potato yield may be down by a quarter. Photo: INM

Brendan O’Gorman says potato yield may be down by a quarter. Photo: INM

Potatoes are likely to double in price over the next year because of the summer heatwave, according to suppliers.

The scorching weather means the crop is down 25pc on last year.

While the country basked in sunshine throughout the summer months, the potato crop became dormant in the soil as it was too hot and dry for the vegetables to grow.

The plants conserved their energy during the dry spell and as a result, a smaller quantity of potatoes are being harvested with potato size also shrinking.

There were also approximately 8pc less potato seeds planted this year, as the seed has become more expensive.

Extremes

Grower Brendan O'Gorman, of Johnstown Produce, Co Kildare, said yesterday that he also expects to have one less person working for him this year, with less work to be done in the harvest.

"The quantity will be down dramatically, possibly 20 to 25pc," he told the Herald.

"In my opinion, that was the driest summer that I've ever seen. It is highly unlikely we will see it again but you do get other extremes.

"In 2010, we had -18C so we do deal with extremes in Ireland. I don't forget because I have crops, but the general public forgets."

Fears of spud price increases were echoed by Ronan Sullivan, of Vernon Catering, who said chipping potatoes will be 60pc up on last year's price and 100pc up after Christmas.

Rooster potatoes will be 100pc up, with "extreme shortages" until the 2019 harvest.

It isn't all bad news for growers though, according to Mr O'Gorman, who says that more people tuck into potato-based meals, such as stew, in the winter months.

He thinks the consumption of potatoes could see an increase, with shoppers loading bags of spuds into their trolleys as the winter months come in.

"Hopefully in two to three weeks all the crop will be up," he added. "The cold weather that is forecast helps consumption too - you eat more when it is cold.

"Everyone heads for the potatoes and comfort food."

His positive attitude was mirrored by another grower, Michael Hoey of Country Crest in Lusk, Co Dublin.

"Size in most parts is a lot smaller this year. But on the plus side, the taste of Irish potatoes is fantastic this year due to the dry climate giving higher dry matters," he said.

"So what this means is that you will get the same goodness from a much smaller potato."

However, whether potato purchases will be as popular as ever remains to be seen as a big price increase is already being seen across Europe.

Cyril Curley, of Curley's Quality Foods, is a Galway-based food supplier who estimates potato prices will remain high until after the harvest in 2019.

Higher

"It's all over Europe that they have doubled in price. They're also coming in later," explained Mr Curley.

"It will have price increases. I'd say there is a 50pc increase so far and it will go higher.

"We don't know when it'll get better, it will be next August or September before the new crop and it will be October next year before there is any change."

Other vegetables were affected by high temperatures too.

"Broccoli didn't grow properly," said Mr Curley. "We don't have irrigation systems for small Irish companies. We don't need them usually.

"It's not too bad as you can get broccoli across Europe but it's sad when you can't get the Irish crop."


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