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Potato shortage looms as farmers face ongoing bad weather

Irish Farmers’ Association’s National Potato chairperson Sean Ryan has said there is a likelihood of potato shortages in supermarkets later in the year as less than 50 acres of the usual 21,000 acres have actually been planted so far.

Mr Ryan’s comments came as Met Éireann’s farming forecast said there will be no relief from rain and sodden ground for farmers in the coming days as rainfall amounts will be two to four times the normal range.

He said: “Yes, it’s very likely at this stage because there was 700 acres that were not harvested at all last year and most of them were damaged with frost, so they are gone out of the equation.

“The situation is going to be very tight and there probably will be empty shelves in supermarkets by the end of the year.”

Mr Ryan said early planting that should have gone ahead in February did not, and only a fraction of the main crop that normally gets planted in mid-March is in the ground.

He said the current bad weather comes after last year’s harvest was one of the most difficult in recent memory, when many growers forced to leave potatoes in the ground as conditions prevented them being harvested.

In its farming bulletin, the Met Éireann said the week ahead will be unsettled, bringing showers and rain and some heavy downpours at times.

It said soil conditions in fields are expected to worsen due to the rain.

The bad weather has severely hampered spring operations

Conditions at the moment are preventing planting and turning livestock out of sheds.

The forecaster said moderately or poorly drained soils will be waterlogged and all other soils will be saturated with all the forecast rainfall.

The farming forecast issued yesterday comes ahead of the publication of Met Éireann’s analysis of March weather later today.

It is expected to show rainfall amounts in Ireland were 140% compared to normal, while amounts in some weather stations in the east and south of the country exceeded 200%, including Dublin Airport where rainfall was 219%, and the Phoenix Park where it was 211%.


Read more: Farmers face ‘extremely stressful time’ over bad weather


Across farming sectors, the bad weather has severely hampered spring operations, preventing cows and cattle being turned out to graze fields where grass growth has been good.

In a normal year, animals that had been housed over the winter would generally be in fields by day and night by the beginning of April.

Grain farmers are also struggling to plant. They have seed stored up and ready to go, but field conditions mean machinery cannot be deployed on wet soils.

The potato sector is one that is being badly affected by wet soils in fields.

‘Severe pressure’

Meanwhile there were calls for forbearance for farmers with cash flow difficulties due to mounting costs as a result of keeping livestock inside as most paddocks are still too wet to graze.

Deputy President of the IFA Alice Doyle said: “Farmers are very resilient in general but I have never seen the mood of farmers so low.”

She described the mood as “on the floor” and said farmers are “under severe pressure”.

“We’ve been asking co-ops and merchants and everybody to be as generous as they possibly can with farmers and the same with financial institutions… to be as lenient as they possibly can when it comes to loans and overdrafts and to extend where they can,” she said.

“They will get it back, but they will have to extend a bit because of the weather situation,” she added.


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