New season growers are receiving €750/t for potatoes this week, according to TJ O’Shea of the Co. Kilkenny packing operation O Shea Farms.

“Yields are in the region of 5t/ac,” he said and early potatoes are an expensive crop to grow but at these prices farmers are making a margin.

“The cold spring delayed the start of this year’s harvest by almost a fortnight. Home Guard, grown in the Wexford area, was the first variety to be dug.

“And we hope to be packing the first of this year’s Queens acreage on Monday next.”

O’Shea pointed out that early growers usually make money.

“Over the past number of years the problem has been the marketing of main season potatoes. An oversupply of spuds has served to crash prices.

“We have a 30-strong grower group, all located within a 50 mile radius of our Piltown base. Given the problems encountered over recent years, our farmers have cut back their acreage by around 10% this year. Hopefully, this will help to put a stronger floor in the market come the back end.”

Approximately 70% of the O’Shea potato acreage is accounted for by Rooster crops. The remainder comprises Golden Wonder, Kerr’s Pink and a range of salad varieties.

O’Shea confirmed that growing conditions had improved dramatically over recent days.

“The challenge facing growers now is that of ensuring their crops do not suffer from water stress, given the current dry conditions” he said.

“Drought predisposes the growing tubers to scab: it also diminishes the yield potential of crops. As a result, many of our farmers are currently irrigating their fields. This is an expensive process but it is a price worth paying in order to maximise the quality of the crops that are eventually harvested.”