Wet weather: major potato shortage looms due to persistent rainfall

Minister says ‘nothing is off the table’ in terms of support following heavy rainfall in March

A major potato shortage is looming next autumn because of the persistent wet weather this spring.

February and March are usually the times for planting potatoes, but only a tiny fraction of the 21,000 acre crop is in the ground at present.

The situation has been compounded by the continuing wet weather with no end in sight at present. Met Éireann is predicting that rainfall levels will be between two and five times higher than normal across the State in the coming week, with the wettest conditions expected in the West and southwest.

Met Éireann says soil conditions are likely to deteriorate further. All poorly-drained and some moderately-drained soils will be waterlogged and well-drained soils will become saturated.


This year’s difficulty follow on from a poor harvest last year caused by the wet autumn which made it difficult for machinery to access potato drills. Planting of this year’s crop has been delayed across northern Europe because of the bad weather.

Irish Farmers Association (IFA) national potato chairman Sean Ryan said normally between 60 and 70 per cent of the crop should be in the ground by now. Even in the best case scenario it will not be possible to plant potato seed for at least 10 days, even if it were to dry up tomorrow.

He anticipated that there will be potato shortages from early summer onwards, when the first crop would normally be harvested.

Mr Ryan said the lengthy period of wet weather stretching back to last July is the worst he has seen in his lifetime. “Even if we get a bad autumn, we often get a decent spring, but there’s been no take-up at all.”

Shortages of potatoes will become acute in August and September, when new potatoes normally end up on supermarket shelves. “There is a lot of ifs and buts about it, but there are definitely going be empty shelves,” he warned.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has asked his department to pause farm inspections not specifically required to support payments until April 22nd because of the bad weather.

He has also asked Teagasc to establish a system for co-ordinating advisory supports to help farmers maximise existing fodder stocks and provide a basis for those with surpluses to engage with those who are struggling.

A meeting of the National Fodder and Feed Security Committee last week concluded that there is sufficient fodder in the country, but it needs to be better distributed.

Mr McConalogue called on banks to show forbearance with farmers who are struggling with cash flow problems because of the bad weather.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Martin Hayden said “nothing is off the table as the situation develops” as far as helping farmers is concerned.

The Minister of State acknowledged that farmers had experienced “a double whammy” as it had been a “really challenging period” before Christmas in terms of sowing winter crops. There were also challenges in later sowing around control of disease.

“This has been an unprecedented winter. From September to April there hasn’t been a break. No farmer has caught a break here at all. It is impacting them. We do farm very differently than we did even five or 10 years ago, and we continue to adapt. But right now, when we are in this, this moment of severe pressure on our farmers, it is right the Government stands up and supports them.”