Farmers hope that rain will save the day for their Royals

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Just 17.2mm of rain fell during May – 37.5mm less than the 30-year average for the month – and irrigation became common in fields across the Island.

But Jersey Royal farmers could be getting a reprieve this week, with rain finally falling, potentially boosting yields for late crops.

William Church, sales and marketing director for the Jersey Royal Potato Company, said it had been a difficult year.

‘The whole season has been a challenge with the weather – we had a very wet quarter at the end of 2019 to very constructive planting throughout January, February and March. Then some fairly damaging north-easterly winds, which have caused problems, and then a month of drought in May, which has just compounded the whole lot,’ he said. ‘The result is that the yields are lower than you expect, and if you do not have potatoes, you cannot sell them and if you cannot sell them you do not make any money.’

Mr Church added that the rain would not only help crops grow but also help his workers in the extraction and packing processes.

‘We have just been so down on all of our yields all season. It is a worrying situation and I hate negativity but it has been tough and it [the rain] will definitely help. Hopefully, with this rain, the back-end crops will therefore be able to yield a bit better,’ he said.

‘The dry weather affects everything – it is hard on the machinery; it is slow going in the field. You end up with a load of clod, therefore you are transporting ground to the packhouse, grading it out and taking it out of the packhouse.

‘So rain will not only help the crop grow but it will also make the process a lot easier.’

Mr Church added that although his company had installed irrigation equipment to water some of their crops, it was not a perfect solution.

‘We have done it whenever we can, wherever we can, but you cannot get round all of the fields because it is physically impossible. There are also only so many water sources,’ he said.

‘We have irrigated when we can but you cannot irrigate through the night because people complain about the hum of the pumps.

‘The other challenge is, you get to the stage where you have been irrigating so much that some of the water courses and reservoirs that we pull out of are now running dry. So it has been a constant battle over the last five weeks.’

Meanwhile, Peter Le Maistre, owner of Grouville-based Master Farms, said although it was not likely to be a good season, he did not want to complain, given the hardships that other businesses were currently experiencing.

‘We have still got about another four or five weeks left in the season but, like everyone, we have been affected as an industry because there are no hotels, no restaurants and no pubs open in the UK or in Jersey, and you get quite a high percentage of Jersey Royals going into those markets,’ he said.

‘So it is still a bit too early to say but it is not going to be a great season – that is for sure.

‘But if you are in any business at the moment which is ticking over, then you are lucky. I would not want people reading the paper to think that we are complaining about ticking over this year – we are very lucky to be able to do that.’

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