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Ed Leahy

BY ED LEAHY

Potato area third-lowest on record

The number of plantings has dropped three per cent as a result of extreme weather in 2018

Potato area third-lowest on record

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British potato plantings will be at one of their lowest ever levels following this year’s nightmare weather.

Following a cold and wet winter, one of Britain’s longest dry spells has hit the vegetable crops the hardest, particularly in the south of England and Wales.

The AHDB now estimates that this has brought the area of potatoes down to 119,000 hectares, a fall of three per cent on last year.

This would be the third-lowest planted area on record, according to the AHDB. The ultimate size of the potato crop, and how the market firms in response, will not be known until harvest. At five-year average yields, this would equate to a total potato harvest of 5.7 million tonnes

Dr Rob Clayton, Sector Strategy Director for Potatoes, said increased cooperation across the supply chain had helped offset the difficulties however. “This has been a tough and stressful season for growers, we do not underestimate that. However, we welcome news that supply chains are working closer than ever before, and that continual improvements are leading to reduced food waste at all points from the grower to the consumer,” he said.

On Wednesday, The Environment Agency announced further support for drought-hit farmers, ahead of the NFU’s drought summit held on the same day. While, In Scotland SEPA has given a commitment to help growers continue to access the water they need for irrigation.

Dr Clayton added: “The season started with sub-zero temperatures brought by ‘the beast from the East’, followed by a wet spring that delayed planting. Since then, we’ve seen one of the driest combined June and July periods on record, so most growers are reporting that yields will be down.

“Farmers have been working round the clock to minimise this, with teams working overnight so that any water used does not evaporate in the hot sun. There is still some growing season to go, so it is impossible to accurately predict how far down they will be.”

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