DONEGAL’S POTATO farmers face a wipeout this year because of the wet weather which could endanger next year’s national crop because of the high level of native seed grown there.
They estimate up to 2,500 acres of the crop, or 80 per cent of the total, is still in the ground, much of it set aside for the production of seed for the 2012 crop.
The area was visited this week by Minister for Horticulture Shane McEntee, who toured the county to view the difficulties involved.
The Irish Farmers Association has called on the Minister to ask Teagasc to carry out a detailed assessment of the losses farmers face there.
The IFA’s national potato committee chairman, Thomas Carpenter, asked the Minister to make a special case for their assistance.
One of the growers who has been hardest hit, Charlie Doherty from Bridgend, has been trying to harvest his 100 acres for the last few weeks, but without success.
“The October rainfall here was 204mm compared to 62mm last year and 90mm the year before. Many farms are flooded and we need at least four clear days to be able to get at the crop,” he said.
“There is also another problem for growers. Potatoes have been growing near the surface of the drills this year because they did not have to go down low to find moisture.
“This will mean if there is any frost at all, there will be total devastation of the crop and we will not be able to salvage any.”
Mr Doherty said he stood to lose at least €250,000 if he could not get his crop because it cost €2,500 an acre to plough, plant and tend to a crop to the stage where it was being harvested.
“A lot of the growers will go to the wall if there is no take-up in the weather and already I think about 30 per cent of the Donegal crop is lost and will not be recoverable,” he added.