In a recent statement, Tim Rooke, chair of the National Farmers Union (NFU) Potato Policy Group, has spoken out about the unprecedented challenges faced during this year’s potato lifting season in the UK. Describing the season as one of the wettest and most difficult in memory, Rooke highlighted the significant impact this has had on the country’s potato crop.
“The extent of crop abandonment is notable, and the moisture content of the harvested potatoes is complicating storage processes,” Rooke explained. This situation has stirred media speculation about potential potato shortages, particularly with the festive season approaching. However, Rooke remains optimistic.
“Such stories are common before Christmas, yet the industry is confident that there will be no shortage of potatoes for the holiday dinners,” he reassured.
Looking ahead to 2024, Rooke cautioned that the situation might be more challenging. “With a smaller initial crop, no carryover from the previous season, and storage difficulties, we’re unlikely to have a surplus this year,” he stated. He also pointed out that similar challenges in Europe and Ireland might limit the UK’s ability to rely on imports.
Rooke emphasized the need for practical measures to mitigate these challenges. “We must utilize every potato available, even if they don’t meet the usual size and shape expectations. Their taste and quality remain unchanged,” he urged.
The NFU is advocating for an immediate relaxation in potato specifications, a measure typically seen towards the end of a season when supply runs low. “Given the storage issues we’re facing, it’s essential to implement this relaxation now,” Rooke argued, highlighting the risk of edible potatoes being discarded or used for stock feed.
In closing, Rooke called for pragmatism across the entire supply chain. “This year’s lifting season, coupled with increased costs and earlier weather extremes, has been particularly tough. It’s crucial for all involved in the supply chain to play their part in maximizing the use of this year’s crop,” he concluded.
Source: NFU. Original press release here
Photo: Tim Rooke