A potato shortage may be upon Ireland following “nightmare” growing season, harsh weather conditions

Prolonged wet weather and diseases have threatened the supply of Irish potatoes

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published June 3, 2024 1:40PM (EDT)

Potatoes (Getty Images/mrs)
Potatoes (Getty Images/mrs)

For the past 12 months, potato growers in Ireland have been hit by what they described is a “nightmare” that has delayed the harvesting of key crops this season. In 2023, around 700 acres of Irish potatoes were lost due to extreme, unprecedented flooding and frost, and overall yield was poor as well. Unfortunately, the potato supply hasn’t picked up in anticipation of the new season, and a more limited supply is what’s anticipated in the coming months, explained Irish Farmers' Association potato chairman Sean Ryan.   

The prolonged wet weather has delayed both the planting and harvesting of first early potatoes, one of three specific groups of new potatoes that require approximately 120 days to mature. The potatoes should’ve been planted early in the spring — in March and into April — but according to Ryan, that is still a work in progress. 

“The old season potatoes are not there, usually the old season would be there until the new season comes in, but they're not so it's a double whammy really,” Ryan told the Irish Examiner. “There will be some new season in the middle of June but it won't be a lot. It will be maybe six or eight weeks later than normal.”

In hopes of boosting the nation’s potato supply, Ireland’s agriculture minister Charlie McConalogue announced he would work to deliver a payment of 100 euros per hectare for horticulture and tillage farmers. “I am committed to our potato sector and despite the constraints of my existing budget, I will work to deliver this support for these farmers,” McConalogue said back in April. However, Ryan said this level of funding is a “kick in the teeth” considering that it currently costs 5,000 euros to grow an acre of potatoes.

Also affecting potato production is blight, a disease that kills off plants, which is already beginning to emerge. Teagasc, the state agency providing research and advisory in agriculture, is developing blight control programmes for 2024.