Heavy Rains, Low Potato Yield, Concern Many In UK

Potato crops in the United Kingdom are legendary, as is the devastating domino effect when weather or pestilence impacts the production of that food staple.

The 19th-century “Great Irish Potato Famine” (also known as “the Great Hunger”) not only contributed to more than a million deaths in Ireland but also directly impacted Western Europe and the United States.

Experts have cited last year’s heavy rains as a primary factor in the record-low potato harvest late last year. According to The National Plus, farms in Agnes, Babet, and Ciaran recorded “nearly twice the average rainfall” last fall.

Rainfall totals and other factors allowed farmers in England to harvest just 4.1 million tonnes of potatoes last November, which will force government leaders to reach into their “stocked supplies” in 2024.

The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) reported that in addition to impacting the potato harvest, heavy rains have affected the yields of other crops as well, including carrots, swedes, and parsnips.

Fred Searle, the editor of Fresh Produce Journal, sounded the alarm that lower production and an uncertain 2024 harvest will lead to a spike in food prices. He wrote: “The British potato harvest has been hit hard by heavy rain and flooding in recent weeks, causing delayed lifting and large crop losses. This was preceded by a cold, wet spring and a cool summer with low light levels.”

Authorities report having sufficient stored supplies to meet existing demand, but additional near-future dips in production could have serious ramifications. Agriculture experts also note that the low supply is impacting consumer costs.

The National Pulse reported a 20% hike in market prices, with that number expected to rise significantly by summer.

GBN News profiled farmer Paul Hamilton, who said, “With so many potatoes lost, the public will feel the effect come…March…”

“Expect that the cost of goods will surely rise,” Hamilton added.

Tim Rooke, chairman of the National Farmer’s Union Potato Policy Group, reported: “Potatoes are in my blood, in my DNA. Everything is changing. Five years ago, as a nation, we produced six million tonnes. Now we’re down to four million.”

Rooke commented that rising energy and fertilizer costs, along with heavy rains, have impacted prices and product availability.

Tension between the UK and Russia has also impacted food and energy supplies. The geopolitical outlook, along with reductions in cod, haddock, and potato supplies, has caused many to be concerned about the future.

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