Potato harvest comes to a close with yields back ‘close to 10%’

The potato harvest is more or less complete for another year and yields are expected to be back close to 10%, according to IFA Potato Committee Chairman Eddie Doyle.

The majority of potato farmers across the country will have the crop harvested by now, thanks to ideal harvest conditions over the last few weeks, Doyle said.

Early estimates indicate that yields will be back close to 10% on last year, which Doyle said is due mainly to a drop in sunlight levels this year.

“Conditions were as good as ever, there was no quality problems. There was no poaching and there was no expensive drying needed this year.

Some potato farmers may never see the likes of it again, harvest conditions were textbook this year.

“Yields were lighter this year, they were back between 2-3t/ac at least. But remember last year was an above average year.”

Roosters proved to be the best potato variety this year, according to Doyle, with saleable yields ranging from between 11-16t/ac depending on the region.

Potatoes prices are also back on last year, despite very little change in retail prices in the supermarkets, the IFA Potato Committee Chairman said.

However, the market is expected to harden coming up to the Christmas period. Once potato merchant’s stocks begin to run low he expects prices will rise.

At the moment a 10kg bag of rooster potatoes is making an average of €3.30 on the whole sale market, while 10kg bags of Kerr Pinks and Golden Wonders are making €3.80 and €5.50 respectively, IFA figures show.

There is a significant amount of potatoes that never make it to the supermarket shelf every year due to visual defects, so farmers must fight their corners when bringing the crops to market, Doyle said.

There is a lot of potatoes thrown out because they don’t meet visual quality standards, this is a problem that is unique to Ireland and the UK.

“Farmers will know their own produce and should argue their case, some of these potatoes that are thrown out might make it to the peeler trade while others will may end up in cattle feed.”

The IFA Potato Committee Chairman, the level of potato exports from Ireland is very low, as Irish producers aim to sustain the supply levels for the domestic market.

“When you hear of potatoes being exported from Ireland there is either a severe scarcity on the continent or there is a large surplus of potatoes here.”

Irish producers would find it very difficult to compete with growers on the continent who benefit from a higher profit margin thanks to lower costs, he said.