23 October 1998

Seed potatoes hit

DIFFICULT conditions over the coming fortnight could hit seed potato supplies hard.

Earlier this week Scottish lifting was far from done and Aberdeenshire only 25% completed, warns Andy Pumfrey of PBI Cambridge.

At least 5000ha (12,400 acres) of the Dutch potato crop has been lost to flooding, he notes. "A much bigger area is under a real threat, and there are bound to be some seed crops in that."

Already orders for some first earlies, notably Rocket and Minerva, have had to be trimmed. "People are right to be concerned about supplies. We are at the mercy of the weather."

In Scotland Greenvale Produces potato seed director Peter Peebles main concern is for frost. "It could get in very quickly because the ground is so wet." But a new 12-strong farmer group arrangement means 80% of the firms 400ha (1000 acres) has been harvested in good order.

A £300,000 investment in forced ventilation/refrigeration storage has proved timely, he adds. "It has been a godsend in a year like this."

"Seed stocks of most varieties are tight," says Branston Potatoes David Nelson. "Many controlled varieties are now unavailable, and disease problems, especially powdery scab, are limiting the proportion of top quality seed."

Growers of free market types such as Desiree and King Edward are very reluctant to sell, notes Pseedcos Stephen