AHDB: Potato harvest is 89% complete despite floods, but challenges persist

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Due to the success of the harvest and volume of stored potato crop, Christmas dishes are expected to be relatively unaffected, according to The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

However, the challenge for farmers still unable to lift crops affected by wet or flooded ground will now be cash flow and the cost of labour while machinery lays idle.

“Farmers have worked through challenging conditions to harvest the majority of potatoes planted this year, which is a testament to their resilience," Head of Arable Market Intelligence, David Eudall, said. “However, for those who couldn’t lift earlier in the year, the saturated or flooded ground is affecting their ability to access the crop, particularly in the northwest of the country, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

Current data shows that 2-3% of the crop is now unlikely to be lifted because of saturated soils degrading quality.

“This figure could rise as we head into December if weather conditions don’t improve. For the remainder of potatoes in the ground, it will remain a question of whether quality will hold up for lifting in the New Year. Financially, it will be a challenging period for those who were unable to lift crop during the drier weather and growers will be monitoring drainage and the depth of winter frosts carefully, as these will affect what’s salvageable.”

The Met Office says the United Kingdom received 109% (138.8 mm) of its average rainfall in October. Historically, 2012 was the last wettest year when 375mm of rain fell in the UK, but not as wet as the year 2000 when a total of 498mm hit the country, according to data from AHDB’s weather hub.

Meanwhile, the National Farmers Union is urging the UK government to develop new plans to better manage floods. 

“Some of our most productive and highest value agricultural land is vulnerable to flooding and deserves to be protected," said Minette Batters, NFU president. "Any future domestic agricultural policy must ensure there are measures in place for farm businesses to manage volatility, particularly in the face of increasingly unpredictable weather." 

 
 

Due to the success of the harvest and volume of stored crop Christmas roasties and crisps are expected to be safe.

However, the challenge for farmers still unable to lift crops due to wet or flooded ground will now be cash flow and the cost of labour while machinery lays idle.

Head of Arable Market Intelligence, David Eudall, said: “Farmers have worked through challenging conditions to harvest the majority of potatoes planted this year, which is a testament to their resilience.

“However, for those who couldn’t lift earlier in the year the saturated or flooded ground is affecting their ability to access the crop. Particularly in the north west of the country, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

Current data shows that two-to-three per cent of the crop is now unlikely to be lifted due to saturated soils degrading quality.

“This figure could rise as we head into December if weather conditions don’t improve. For the remainder of potatoes in the ground, it will remain a question of whether quality will hold up for lifting in the New Year. Financially, it will be a challenging period for those who were unable to lift crop during the drier weather and growers will be monitoring drainage and the depth of winter frosts carefully, as these will affect what’s salvageable.”

Historically 2012 was the last wettest year when 375mm of rain fell in the UK, but not as wet as the year 2000 when a total of 498mm hit the country, according to data from AHDB’s weather hub.

Across the country, farmers are making decisions to manage during unprecedented weather conditions. To help, AHDB has advice, guidance, market reports and digital tools on ahdb.org.uk/weather.

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