Potato crisis continues

With almost 500 acres of Donegal’s potato harvest yet to be dug, one farmer told a meeting of Donegal IFA that in his life “it has never been as bad”.

With almost 500 acres of Donegal’s potato harvest yet to be dug, one farmer told a meeting of Donegal IFA that in his life “it has never been as bad”.

Heavy early winter rains and flooding put many Donegal potato farmers in a precarious position unable to gather spuds from soaked fields since before Christmas.

At a meeting of Donegal IFA’s county Executive on Tuesday night, Potato’s Commodity chairman, Charlie Doherty from Bridgend said it is a “very poor” time for local potato growers.

“There is still 480 acres to be dug. It’s very poor. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it as bad,” he told the meeting.

He said part of the problem was that much of the rest of the country enjoyed a good potato yield this year and did not face the same weather conditions as Donegal. This has led to a healthy supply which affects the price local growers can expect.

He said in some cases spuds gathered locally are now going straight for use as animal feed.

“It might have taken you €250 to grow and you’re only getting €25. It doesn’t take much to figure out the maths,” he added.

Another problem they face is falling consumption in potatoes, losing out to pasta and rice.

He said a large part of the drop has to do with image that potatoes are fattening which he questioned, stating there is virtually no fat content in them.

In other IFA news, the Donegal farm group is now leading the way for marking farm equipment in a bid to improve security.

Donegal IFA member, Michael Chance, said they are starting a process of travelling to each local county branch to mark and log items such as trailers and quad bikes.

A record of each marking is then recorded and available for security purposes in the event they are stolen. The initiative was established in conjunction with the Gardai and the PSNI and Donegal is leading the way with other border counties hoping to adopt a similar model in the future.

Michael explained that they are “just getting a feel” for the programme but they hope to make the information on marking available to all members in the coming months.

A special stencil pack has been prepared at a cost of €30. It includes a stencil suitable for trailers, as well as three smaller ones suitable for smaller equipment such as quad bikes.

Each member will be allocated a security number and they were advised to make sure they keep a detailed record of what has been marked or stencilled.

Donegal IFA chairman, PJ McMonagle, said the scheme was launched last Autumn and to date it “seems to be working well in the North.”

He said one of the main reasons for members to get involved was that the marking can act as a deterrent to prospective thieves targeting farm machinery.

“It seems to be going well in the North. There is still plenty of stuff going missing but we’re hearing the stuff marked isn’t being taken. Some times it’s the simple things that do help,” he added.

He said Senior gardai have been liaising with the Donegal group on the project and if it proves successful it may be launched nationwide at the National Ploughing Championships.