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Farmer Derek Erwin with unusable potatoes on his farm on the Ards Peninsula.

Irish potato farmers fear ‘one of the worst harvests in memory’ after wet spell

Potato farmers in Northern Ireland are facing their worst harvest in living memory as more than half of this year’s crop is still in the ground.

One Co Down farmer could lose more than £130,000 as he battles the challenging wet conditions that have potentially destroyed much of his crop.

Northern Ireland’s potato industry said they are hoping for a break in the wet weather to save it from one of the most “disastrous harvests in living memory.”

Derek Erwin, a potato farmer for over 25 years, said it is the worst he has experienced.

The Ards Peninsula farmer, who has around 220 acres, added: “We have already lost 10 per cent of the crop that we have harvested as some of the potatoes have been left green and those can’t be eaten.

“It’s a costly service because the crop is so slow in the difficult conditions. The weather took a real tumble from July and we have had a fighting match since then,” said Erwin. “We started the harvest in August but then had to stop and start because of the wet conditions. We were finished all our acres at the start of November last year. Today we are sitting with nearly two-thirds left to harvest.”

Farmers are also struggling to access land with machinery because the land is too soft.

Erwin added: “As we can’t get it harvested in time we are at risk of losing the crop as it is lying in the wet ground for longer than 24 hours. It has been the worst prolonged wet spell.”

Lewis Cunningham, the managing director of potato supplier Wilson’s Country, said that ground conditions have been “extremely challenging. Normally by the end of October the entire harvest would be nearing completion,” he said.

“Growers have been using every opportunity, and no little ingenuity, to get potatoes lifted over recent weeks. Some growers in Co Antrim have not had the opportunity to start harvesting at all yet, so difficult are the conditions in that part of the world.”

Source: Belfast Telegraph

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