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Irish and UK potato harvests face severe challenges amidst unprecedented rainfall

In a concerning development for potato farmers across Ireland and the United Kingdom, the latest weekly market report from the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has highlighted extreme challenges in the ongoing harvest season. Persistent and heavy rainfall has led to significant disruptions, with very little harvesting taking place in the current wet conditions.

According to the report, the relentless downpour has already resulted in notable losses within the Irish potato crop, with expectations of further substantial increases in losses as the harvest progresses. Data from Met Eireann, the Irish National Meteorological Service, indicates a worrying trend, with many stations recording rainfall amounts that have surpassed the average annual total, while others are nearing this threshold.

The situation is particularly dire as the calendar turns to November, a period now described as “extremely difficult territory” for potato harvesting. The heavy rains have stripped much of the clay from the top of the drills, exposing the potato crop to an increased risk of frost damage. With the forecast of a few hard frosts, there is a looming threat of entire crops being wiped out, a scenario that could have devastating impacts on farmers and the potato market.

Across the Irish Sea, the situation is similarly grim for potato growers in the United Kingdom. More rainfall has rendered the soils exceedingly wet, heightening concerns about the feasibility of lifting the remaining crop. Particularly in the Midlands and northwards, several growers are facing the daunting task of lifting over 500 acres of potatoes. This includes those who had planned for ex-field lifting of late varieties intended for processing.

This challenging scenario underscores the vulnerability of agricultural practices to extreme weather conditions and raises concerns about the potential impact on potato supply and prices in the coming months. As farmers grapple with these unprecedented challenges, the situation remains closely monitored by industry stakeholders and consumers alike.

Source: Irish Farmers Association (IFA). Original report here
Photo: Harvesting potatoes near Bonby, North Lincolnshire, UK. Credit D H Wright on Wikimedia Commons, originally published on Flickr

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