Potato growers made good progress lifting the few remaining crops around the country last week, despite rain in many regions.

But harvesters are likely to be working until the end of the month, particularly on difficult soils given this week’s wet forecast, according to the latest British Potato Council update.

An estimated 117,000ha (93%) had been cleared up to last Friday (October 21), 7% ahead of 2004 progress, which was continually disrupted by rain.

In England and Wales, the remaining fields in the north were late processing crops including Pentland Dell, Russet Burbank and Maris Piper, while some Nadine crops had been slow to set skins. In Herefordshire and Shropshire a few areas left to gain weight were cleared over the weekend.

Good progress was possible in Scotland until Tuesday last week (18 Oct), but rain slowed activity for the rest of the week, reported the BPC’s Rob Burrows.

Most crops had been loaded into stores in excellent order after being lifted in ideal conditions, he said. But some problems, such as slug and mechanical damage, had occured recently, particularly in Maris Piper.

Rotting risk had increased where cut tubers were slow to heal, while high ambient temperatures had increased the risk of silver scurf on packing stocks.

Elsewhere in Europe potato lifting was also almost complete, he reported. In Holland, just 2-5% of the crop remained to be cleared, mostly in the north, while the majority of growers in France had also finished. In Germany harvest was completed last weekend with most crops loaded into stores in very good condition.

In Eastern Europe, where planting areas have fallen by 19% over the past two seasons, harvesting has progressed well, but quality problems have been reported from most countries.

Of most concern was the damage caused by very dry soil at harvesting, as well as blight resulting from humid growing conditions. As a result Eastern European countries are expected to have a strong demand for imported potatoes.