An unprecedented wet season in New Zealand has caused potatoes to rot in the ground before they could be harvested, with one Horowhenua district farmer losing 100 tonnes from a single paddock.
Opiki potato farmer, Mike Moleta has been working his family farm for two decades, his father for six decades before him. He said that in all that time they had never experienced weather so extreme.
The potatoes, planted on their Opiki farm during October last year, were due to be harvested from April onwards. However, because of unprecedented rainfall, Moleta could only stand by as his potatoes began to rot in the ground.
He said, generally speaking, potatoes could only last for 24 hours if they were under water, but his were under water for two or three days at a time. “The potato rows were full of water [for days] in April, May, and July and again in August.”
Moleta said that April and May are normally dry and a breeze for harvesting. “If anything, it can be too dry and the potatoes can get bruised [during harvesting].”
This year was so wet that Moleta wasn’t able to harvest one of his paddocks of potatoes until August, too late for half the crop.
“From the middle of June to August 20, we were only able to get out for half a day of harvesting,” he said. “We have done more harvesting in the last 10 days than the last three months.”
Moleta said he wasn’t sure about the idea of climate change but recognized that weather patterns seemed to be getting more extreme and, that by the end of June this year, had already reached their annual rainfall total.
He said that the effects of the high rainfall were two-fold, in losing product and doubling productions costs.
“Because the rows were full of water for so long, the potatoes at the bottoms of the rows rotted. What did survive [at the top of the rows] had more insect and frost damage and greening, which all added to the loss.”
He said they had a contract for one paddock of 200 tonnes but were only able to harvest half that amount.
“Harvesting costs were twice as high because the ground conditions made it slow going. Instead of taking four days to harvest, it took 10,” he noted. “If these weather patterns continue we will have to evaluate our future in the industry because we can’t sustain losses like we have this year.”
Source: New Zealand Herald
The Japanese government has lifted an import ban on potatoes grown in Idaho, the largest U.S. potato producer, for the first time in 11 years after confirming a lowered risk of pest invasion.
Japan suspended imports of all potatoes grown in the United States in 2006 and later resumed imports of U.S. potatoes except those grown in Idaho, the origin of a pest.
Most fresh potato imports are used for making potato chips and their demand has been on the rise lately.
The government has apparently decided that the influence of imports on major potato producers in the country such as Hokkaido will be limited since the current amount of potato imports is considerably small compared with the domestic produce.
In April 2006, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries announced the suspension of U.S. potato imports after pale potato cyst nematode was detected in Idaho, but it lifted the ban on condition of conducting soil tests, among other things, in February 2007, except for Idaho potatoes.
The farm ministry dispatched experts to the United States and checked management conditions before lifting the ban this time, and Tokyo has already notified the U.S. government of the decision, the sources said.
In spring this year, some major potato chip makers in Japan suspended sales of some of their products due to a potato shortage following a poor harvest last year in Hokkaido, caused by low temperatures and typhoons.
The amount of raw potato imports from the United States last year reached around 28,000 tons, over 3.5 times the amount five years ago.
Pakistan has reduced the import of potato seeds by 50 per cent as a result of strong public-private partnership in locally certified potato production through planning and technical assistance.
Ahead of the start of the potato growing season, the Variety Evaluation Committee of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council has recommended improving the quality of local certified potato seed through tissue culture laboratories, and proposed the establishment of a national potato institute.
Setting up the institute will not only be a step forward to sustainable agriculture, but will also help reap economic benefits by increasing yield per acre of potato to improve foreign exchange by exporting surplus production, the committee observed.
Potato is the most important crop in Pakistan after cereals, with a potential of earning a significant amount for foreign exchange.
In Pakistan, potato cultivation is categorized in three growing seasons as spring, summer and autumn crops with different geographical locations. Potato, being a short duration crop, lends itself to the multiple cropping patterns that exist. Potato in autumn is the main crop, sharing more than 80 per cent of the total produce.
A major constraint in potato production is the non-availability of quality seeds at the right time and at a reasonable price. At present, less than three per cent of quality seed is available in the country.
Potato growing season is now underway in the country with almost the end of monsoon season. The target set for 2016-2017 is 3.8 million tonnes, whereas the domestic potato requirement is three million tonnes. Roughly one million tonnes of surplus potato is available for export.
The main exporting countries are Afghanistan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Oman, Russia, Sri Lanka and United Arab Emirates.
The area under potato crop is 170,300 hectares with a total production of roughly four million tonnes as per the latest agricultural statistics. The highest production of potato is in Punjab, followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh.
According to officials of the National Agricultural Research Centre in Islamabad, seed is one of the important factors that determine the productivity of potato crop. Farmers in Pakistan, with the help of seed obtained through informal seed system, are able to get an average yield of 20 tonnes potato per hectare.