Supply Chain

Potato Planting Improves As Warmer Weather ‘Turns The Stone’

By Sarah O'Sullivan
Potato Planting Improves As Warmer Weather ‘Turns The Stone’

As the weather has improved from a recent wet spell, Farm Link has reported significant progress on potato planting, despite previous delays.

Wilson’s Country managing director Lewis Cunningham commented on the current state of potato agriculture at the inaugural International Day of the Potato celebration.

The day was developed by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization and will be an annual event.

Cunningham confirmed that the planting of the year’s main crop is nearing completion.

“The recent spell of good weather has helped the cause of growers,” he said.

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“Across the island of Ireland, the vast majority of crops are now in the ground.

“Early indications are that the acreages planted are slightly up, year on year.”

He added that June is always a busy month for potato producers.

He continued, “New-season Comber [potatoes] will be widely available in the shops within the next two to three weeks.

“Again, these crops have benefitted from the upturn in the weather.

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“After that, it’s a case of getting on with the main crop harvest.

“The first set-skin potatoes of the year, mainly Piper and Osprey, will be coming out of the Carlingford area at the end of July and early August.

“Once we get to September, the first of the main crops grown in Northern Ireland will be ready for digging.

“Obviously, all of this is totally water dependent.”

On potato stocks, Cunningham said, “Retail pack sales remain very strong.

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“However, in contrast, sales of potatoes into the catering sector are faltering at the present time.

“This trend reflects the impact created by the continuing cost-of-living crisis.”

The Future

In looking ahead, Cunningham said that he views the challenge of securing higher levels of sustainability across the entire agricultural sector, including potatoes, as a major priority.

“But we have to get the basics right,” he said, “and this means coming up with a single carbon footprint model and calculator that fits all farm scenarios across the UK and Ireland.

“We don’t have this at the moment. As a result, farmers are receiving mixed messages where these critically important matters are concerned.”

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On the importance of the crop, he said, “The potato is the world’s most versatile vegetable, grown in 159 countries.

“It takes less water to grow a crop of potatoes than is the case with any comparable staple food crop, including rice and pasta.”

With potato growing being heavily impacted this year, Cunningham stressed the importance of protecting the staple.

“More must be done to market and promote the nutritional value of potatoes,” he said.

“From a nutrition delivery and versatility perspective, they cannot be matched.”

He concluded, “In reality, the humble spud is a nugget of gold within the world of human nutrition.”

Read More: Potato Prices Increase As Supply Tightens

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