Digging of Rooster second earlies is now underway in the south east with potato growers in the North Dublin area telling Agriland that they will be digging the first of their Rooster crops within the fortnight.

“We have had three and a half inches of rain over the past four days. But ground conditions remain excellent. So assuming that we get a normal pattern of weather over the next few weeks, we should be set fair to get on with this year’s harvest,” Peter Keogh of Keogh’s Potatoes.

“Prior to all of this we had two very dry months. As a consequence, skin set has been particularly early in crops of Rooster. Given that we have had lots of sunshine eating quality should be excellent this year.”

On the issue of potato prices, Peter Keogh pointed out that significant tonnages of old crop are still overhanging the market. “It will take a few weeks to get all of last season’s potatoes through the system. There is currently a premium on new season produce. But it is hard to tell just how long this will last for.

“The fundamental problem is that consumption of fresh potatoes is falling here in Ireland. Yes, this has been balanced by the growth in the usage of chips and the demand for ready meals, many of which contain potatoes.

“But there remains a fundamental challenge facing the Irish potato sector. The simple fact is that young people have stopped eating fresh potatoes. They are unaware of the health benefits associated with the humble spud. And this situation must be addressed.”

He said it is for this reason that he welcomes the potato marketing campaign that is to be part funded by the European Union. “As I understand it, the initiative will get underway next Spring and will last for three years.”