ADVERSE WEATHER conditions which have battered Ireland for months has resulted in "serious" problems with the annual potato harvest and could lead to a national shortage, experts have warned.
According to RTÉ, the constant wet weather has resulted in just 30% of the national crop being harvested so far, with fears of big losses if Ireland is not hit with a prolonged dry spell, as wet soil can cause potatoes to rot in the ground.
If the situation is not rectified quickly, farmers could lose profits and there could be a severe shortage of Irish potatoes available to buy across the country.
Rainfall in the northeast of the country, where half the national crop is grown, experienced rainfall double that of the monthly average in August and September, and this has resulted in only a small percentage of the crops being harvested.
Navan-based farmer Thomas McKeown spoke to RTÉ about the worrying impact the rainfall has had on the crops, admitting he has only been able to harvest 10% of his crops so far and that the problem is likely to be widespread across the country.
The wet soil has also prevented the winter crop of barley from being planted, as ploughing and seeding in the marshy ground is near impossible.
Michael Hennessy, Head of Crops Knowledge Transfer, told the broadcaster that during "the ploughing championships [in mid September] there was really fine weather. It started raining after that, and it hasn’t stopped since.
That is the very time when people are trying to get potatoes out, maize harvested and all the other crops into the ground. In some counties planting is as low as 5%".
Siobhán Walsh from farming website Agriland also voiced her concerns, and said:
"This is serious, only about 10-15% of the winter cereal average was sewn last week, and it hasn’t progressed much further this week, because weather hasn’t allowed it.
"Fields are waterlogged and farmers can’t get into their fields. If farmers can’t get the most profitable crops into the ground, the knock on effect next year is a reduction in income".