A SENIOR IFA official in Donegal says a potato shortage and job losses could be on the way unless there is urgent intervention to help the farming sector.
Farmers met in Dublin recently to discuss ways to keep the industry afloat.
But with land rental, fertiliser, fuel and storage costs at an all-time high, fears are mounting that many potato growers could be forced out of business.
Donald Logue is Donegal’s IFA Potato Chairman.
He said farmers will have big decisions to make in the coming months.
“Men are even thinking about not planting this year.
“If that is the case you could be running into a potato shortage next year.
“Some potato growers just about survived last year and some maybe even took a loss.
“Out of every food commodity, the potato is the only one that didn’t go up in price,” he said.
Mr Logue said as a result of overall costs rising by 25 per cent, farmers are facing multiple challenges.
“If you store potatoes from now until June, you could be paying anything from €80 to €100 per tonne in electricity.
“If the price of fertiliser doesn’t come down in the Republic to the same rate as the fertiliser in Northern Ireland or England, we are facing into a very expensive year.
“On top of all that there is the price of renting land which roughly costs an extra €1,000 an acre to grow.”
Mr Logue is a small conventional potato grower who sells his produce locally.
But even he is feeling the pinch of current situation.
“I don’t know how the big potato growers are coping.
“We have already had one decent sized 100 acre grower in Donegal step out of the potato growing business this year and there are rumours of more men cutting back.
“There is nothing out there as good a value as a bag of potatoes.
“Pound for pound they’re the best value but people don’t seem to see it.”
Kevin Harkin from Bridgend has been growing potatoes since 1975 and is one of the country’s largest award winning potato producers.
He said the current economic climate is the worst he has seen for farmers like himself.
“All inputs have been increased but the produce that we are selling hasn’t. If nothing is done about this issue soon I would say the number of potato growers over the next couple of years will decrease and so will the number of acres of potatoes being planted.
“I think this could unfortunately force some potato growers in Donegal out of business.”
Mr Logue added that while there was nothing that will make money as quick as potatoes, there is nothing that will lose a farmer money as quick either.
“If nothing changes some farmers will be forced out of business this year.
“These issues have a knock-on effect behind the farmyard gate and people’s jobs are at risk if changes are not made,” he said.
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