The volume of Jersey Royals grown this year will fall by up to 15% to prevent oversupply of the UK market and maintain the price for farmers.
Jersey’s growers are planning for a slight contraction in the market, based on falling potato sales generally in the UK and an expectation that consumers will buy fewer premium products in the current economic uncertainty.
Tim Ward, Operations Director at Albert Bartlett, one of Jersey’s two main marketing companies, said: “Our industry is very labour intensive, and we don’t want to over-supply the market and risk waste.
“Demand for potatoes has fallen over the last 12 months, so we are being cautious but farmers by nature are optimistic, so I’m confident that we’ll get it right and have a successful season, despite not having a crystal ball.”
However, Mr Ward added that farming had experienced a “perfect storm” of increasing labour, supply and production costs, which had been amplified by the war in Ukraine.
Pictured: Tim Ward, Operations Manager at Albert Bartlett (Credit: David Ferguson).
He said that the industry’s relationship with the Government had “turned a corner” this year with decades of falling funding replaced with a £1.5m increase this year.
However, this had been cancelled out by a 14% rise in the minimum wage in November.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel, but the Government keeps on extending the tunnel,” he said.
Some planting has begun this season, although it is not yet up to full speed, with staff still arriving in the island from countries such as the Philippines.
It is due to get into full swing from next week, when it is hoped drier conditions will replace the recent heavy showers.
Jersey Farmers’ Union President Peter Le Maistre said that the expected fall in the number of vergées planted this season was a good opportunity for land to be rested, which would include planting regenerative crops and grass for grazing.
He said “The price we get for Royals has been pretty much static, although we did manage to get a slightly better price last year compared to 2021.
“However, that increase was wiped away by the rising cost of fertiliser and, in particular, fuel, which has more than doubled in the last 12 months. We are further hit by UK delivery charges and then shipping it to Jersey.”
Mr Le Maistre reiterated the industry’s call for more government funding, especially as the rise this year had been soaked up by extra employment costs, with the minimum wage increasing to £10.50 an hour.
“We need a viable agricultural industry, and it would be a huge mistake to let it go,” he said. “All we are asking is for a level of support which is comparable with other jurisdictions, including the UK.
“The argument that we should let others grow cheap food just doesn’t make any sense to me. Surely it is better to grow cheap food ourselves rather than pay someone else to do it. There is a moral argument to make there, too.
“We also need to ask what sort of island we want to live in. If it one with a rural landscape of nature, fields and cows, then we need to invest in maintaining that.”
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