UK: Jersey Early Potato Yields Down 40%
Potato yields from the early Jersey Royal crop are down 40%, as drought grips the Chanel Islands in bone-dry conditions not seen since the drought of 1976. A very wet February was followed by virtually no rain through March and April, and the season on Jersey is running three to four weeks behind the normal lifting schedule.
William Church, sales and marketing director of the Jersey Royal Company, says tuber sizes are down and the lifting season has been extended until mid-July in the hope of some rain.
“This is a very challenging year – some say the worst since 1976 – and we are now begging for rain,” he told Farmers Weekly.
The company grows about 60% of Jersey’s early potatoes, or some 1,800ha, on an island where one third of the cultivated land grows potatoes of the Jersey Royal variety. The group owns no land but rents it from about 110 landlords, and then conducts planting, harvesting, grading and the marketing of the crop.
Church says this season is tougher than 2018, when cold weather arrived in late February, frosting many early crops, and yields were down 20% in a delayed harvest. This season, February was very wet with strong northeast winds, and when the first very early outdoor crops were lifted at the end of March, yields were down 50%. Now they are running down 40% on usually levels of about 18t/ha, while prices are already set for delivery to the big retailers on the UK mainland.
The industry normally produces about 28,000 to 30,000 tons of early spuds each year for delivery largely within the UK.