Farmer Focus: Supply chain will laugh until farmers say ‘no’

No potatoes have been planted. The Queens in chitting trays continue to get pulled in and out of the shed between rain and frosts.

I think a lot of farmers who planted early will suffer due to the cold, but you can’t sell what you haven’t planted. 

I now question how long you can have potatoes sitting in a tray before they start to lose power from inadequate nutrients. Has anyone applied nutrients to potatoes in trays before planting?

See also: Shallower potato cultivation depths recommended in wet season

About the author

Richard Orr
Richard farms cereals and potatoes in a reduced cultivation system in County Down, Northern Ireland with his wife and two children. Richard is a cereals and oilseeds sector council member and focuses on soil and plant health. He also keeps a small number of cattle, pigs and sheep. 
Read more articles by Richard Orr

I spent Saturday cultivating potato land as we had a forecast of dry weather for the next 10 days, but it rained all Saturday night and Sunday was damp. Back to square one. Let’s hope the next 10 days are actually dry.

The potato industry is struggling to get a price on farm for local potatoes, with quotes below £200/t for frying potatoes. Yet the middleman is charging more than  £600/t for English frying Piper delivered to chip shops.

It’s an absolute disgrace that farmers are taken for fools by packers and processors. Yet in some ways, farmers are as much to blame.

I’ve listened to several complain at length about the price and late payments. When I ask how we can change, the answer is the same: “Don’t rock the boat. We need to sell our potatoes.”

Until farmers collectively say “no”, those further up the supply chain will continue to laugh. The only people who can change the future are the growers themselves. 

The wheat price in NI is based largely on what price feed mills ship it in for from the rest of the world. Potatoes can be double the price to ship than wheat, and farmers will accept it.

As an industry, we grow varieties that have been grown for years because farmers like growing them or it’s “what we’ve always done”.

With no orders or contracts in place, it is high risk to market your product, but farmers do it every year.

I hope everyone can get their spring work completed as soon as possible and spring finally comes as promised.

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