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UK: Harvest proving difficult for seed potato farmers

It may still be early days and no major damage to crops is being reported, but soggy ground conditions are now posing serious challenges for producers in many areas.

Traders say crops are holding up well in the ground and quality is almost universally good, with yields being reported as average or slightly above average. Levy body AHDB also reports that previous fears of blackleg are now dying down and levels of scab remain low.

However there is a huge contrast in lifting conditions across the country, and according to Grampian Growers potato manager David Murdie, around 45% of seed has been harvested around Montrose, while in Aberdeenshire lifting has barely begun.

“No damage has been done yet but it’s unbelievably frustrating for us and a million times more so for farmers. I’d say around 65% of the crop is still in the ground. In terms of quality, 75-80% of the seed being harvested is good or very good, with only 5-10% where we’re concerned about the skin finish and health.”

Grampian Growers handle 18,000 tonnes of seed from 42 growers and the tonnage required for the company’s first export to Thailand on October 9 is already safely in store. The next shipment to Egypt is due towards the end of October, but is still in the ground

Agrico executive director, Archie Gibson, based at Castleton of Eassie, said the wet weather was posing an ongoing challenge for the 100 seed growers who supply the company and make up around 25% of all certified growers in the UK, stretching from Portmahomack to Plymouth.

“The longer it stays wet the soggier the ground gets and the harder it is to get the potatoes in and dried off for export markets where customers like them to be free from soil – and that’s very challenging in a wet year,” he said.

“And looking ahead there’s no comfort from the short-term  weather forecast.”

Meanwhile the trial fields at the AHDB’s strategic potato farm at Bruce Farms, Meigle are due to be harvested later this week.

Publication date: 9/29/2017


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