Jersey Royal potato planting suspended by heavy rain

Jersey Royal potatoes
Image caption Jersey Royal potatoes are one of the island's most famous products

Sustained heavy rain and poor weather conditions has put the planting of Jersey Royal potatoes on hold.

The crop, which was worth nearly £30m to the island in exports last year, depends on an early harvest to maintain its value.

Heavy rain has left fields far too wet for the sowing of seed potatoes.

William Church from the Jersey Royal Company said he expects there to be repercussions for farmers' profits later in the year.

"It has been a very wet couple of weeks, it has disrupted planting, we normally plant from the beginning of the year to the end of March," he said.

"The knock-on effect is that around the beginning of May, when we expect to have more potatoes exported, we will have to work with what we already have.

"We do have a couple of hundred staff standing around not doing much at the moment waiting for a full day of dry weather to dry out the fields so we can plant again."

He said it would put farmers behind schedule, but that they were able to get a number of royals planted throughout January.

Mr Church said Jersey's main benefit was the fact it was able to get potatoes out earlier then parts of the UK, but any delay reduced their "exclusive window" and increased competition for shelf space.

"The potato price comes down the later you get in the season, in the UK they produce cheaper potatoes than we do so we have to beat them on timing."

There was a drop in the number of Jersey Royals exported in 2012. The number of Jersey Royals sold or exported fell from 30,890 tonnes in 2011, worth £30.8m, to 28,600 tonnes in 2012, worth £28.6m.

In 2013, the harvest was delayed until May due to cold weather and heavy snowfall.

Mr Church said: "If a farmer gave up after something goes against him then you would never have anyone farming."

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