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NZ: Shortage concerns of Jersey Benne potatoes due to wet winter

Jersey Benne potatoes have long been a Christmas staple, but the wettest winter on record for Oamaru, New Zealand has raised the possibility of a shortage.

One of the first early potatoes, the Jersey Benne is an oval potato with creamy flesh and thin skin. The best come from North Otago and in particular Kakanui, near Oamaru. 

However, Potatoes New Zealand chief executive Chris Claridge said supply for all varieties of new season potatoes would be tight as a result of the weather.

The warm and wet conditions over winter had effectively delayed the harvest, as growers in places like Pukekohe had struggled to plant out their fields, he said.

While early crop volumes may be down, Claridge said supply would catch up as the season went on.

Oamaru grower Peter Armstrong, who typically planted up to 40 hectares of Jersey Bennes each year, said it had been a season of two halves.

Anything planted before the heavy rains of late June and July had produced low yields when they were dug up in November.

"The rain has had a major effect on the early crops. The quality is good, but the yields are well down," he said.

Growers were slowing down their digging to spread out supply, however, Armstrong said the potatoes planted after the rains were looking magnificent.

"You could have two paddocks side-by-side, one planted out before the rain and the other after, they're like chalk and cheese," he said.

Armstrong said there may be a squeeze as a result, but was hopeful enough Jersey Bennes would be produced in time for Christmas.

Jersey Bennes from Oamaru typically appeared in supermarkets around the country from mid-November to the end of January.

Kilogram packs started arriving at family-owned Christchurch fruit and veg store Crazy Daves the week of November 15.

Debbie Macdonald said customers had been asking about them before they arrived, adding to their popularity was partly due to their association with Christmas.

"They're a traditional potato, everybody knows them. Especially older people. It's passed on down the generations, that love for them," she said.

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