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Farmers fear losing up to 1,000 tonnes of potatoes stuck in saturated fields

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FARMERS fear losing up to 1,000 tonnes of potatoes which are stuck in the ground after the relentless wet weather turned the Island’s fields into unworkable ‘bogs’.

Islanders have grown used to seeing dark skies and saturated fields

Growers say they have just over a week to harvest their main-crop potatoes before they have to be left to rot.

Fears that much of this year’s potato crop will be lost follow one of the wettest Octobers on record, which has resulted in harvesting being delayed by a month.

Charlie Gallichan, of Woodside Farms, said that his fields had been turned into ‘bogs’ by the wet weather, meaning he has been unable to use tractors to lift his crop.

He said: ‘The issue we have is that we don’t actually know how this weather will impact the potatoes. If the weather dries up in the next week we could be OK. But the situation we are in is unprecedented, as we would usually have harvested the crop by now.

‘The situation is very concerning. We have at least 1,000 tonnes of main-crop potatoes still in the ground.

‘Ultimately we have about ten days left to harvest the crop.’

Additionally, Mr Gallichan said that the harvesting of carrots is taking much longer and could be costing him as much as three times more than usual in labour.

‘If the rain continues, the loss will have a significant impact on us,’ he added.

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Christine Hellio, who runs Manor Farm in St Ouen with husband Didier, said that they had been forced to dig up their potatoes by hand due to the wet weather.

‘We have been trying to dig up the main-crop potatoes, which we would have done over a month ago if it weren’t for the weather.

‘In my 40 years of farming I have never seen an October as wet as what we saw this year. I am hopeful that we will have a good spell of weather, but we only really have one or two weeks left before we have to leave the rest of the crop in the ground.’

Speaking about the rest of their vegetable crop she said that everything else was ‘holding strong’ but added that the cauliflower crop could not take any more rain.

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‘If we get much more rainfall the leaves of the cauliflower will turn yellow and we won’t be able to sell them, but everything else is doing OK. And people will be pleased to hear the Brussels sprouts are OK.’

Peter Le Maistre, of the Jersey Farmers Union, said that while main potato crops had suffered this year, the unusually heavy rainfall could benefit next year’s Jersey Royal season.

Asked whether the heavy rainfall could possibly delay next year’s mixed veg and Jersey Royal growing season, he said it was ‘too soon to tell’.

He added: ‘Compared to the UK, we got off very lucky and most growers have said that the conditions have been OK. And we probably needed more water reserves in the ground for the new year.’

Krystle Higgins

By Krystle Higgins
Reporter

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