Teagasc potato specialist Shay Phelan has stated that between 10% and 15% of this year’s ware potato crop is still in the ground: “Significant tonnages are yet to be harvested in the northeast and northwest [of Ireland]. … A lot of potatoes were dug over the past fortnight. These are currently being dried and cured before going into store. But it’s too early to say yet what sort of condition they are in. This week’s heavy rain has put a stop to all field work for the foreseeable future,” Phelan added.
He went on to point out that the potato market is in balance right now: “Last year saw growers obtaining record yields. In response, the acreage grown this year has come back a bit. Also, yields are well down, year-on-year.”
There is little doubt that the drought conditions that persisted for most of the summer months have resulted in lower ware yields this year. However, there is some indication that the rain that fell in September helped to bulk up some crops, prior to them being dried off.
Average potato yields in 2021 came in at 19t/ac. It has been estimated that the 2022 figure will come in at around 15t.
Potato storage costs have more than doubled YoY
According to IFA Potato Committee chair, Sean Ryan, growers are currently paying an electricity charge of 48c/unit to run their stores: “Potatoes going into store now, may well not be coming out again until next June. Meanwhile, growers will have no option but to keep their stores operating throughout this period. The costs associated with storage alone are enormous at the present time. Growers must find some way of getting some compensation for this commitment, either through the market or from the government.”
Growers are estimating that the total cost of growing potatoes this year has risen by €800/ac, relative to 2021. Given current fuel prices, it is costing some growers up to €1,100 to harvest potatoes on a daily basis. This figure assumes no breakdowns or machinery repairs.