A good season for Jersey Royals, but at what cost?

A good season for Jersey Royals, but at what cost?

A good season for Jersey Royals, but at what cost? (Courtesy: David Ferguson)

september 21, 2023
Jersey Potato exporters were able to negotiate a better price from UK supermarkets this year to help cover rising costs but blight and poor weather meant it was still a difficult season.

Jersey Farmers Union president Peter Le Maistre said the whole crop had sold but that it was another challenging year for the sector, particularly in the final stages of planting, when a long run of good weather was replaced by rain in late March.

And the cost of fertiliser has almost tripled in two years as the war in Ukraine pushes up the wholesale price, he said. Peter Le Maistre:
 
"We got off to a good start with a fair spell of weather in February and March. We made good speed but the last 20% of seed took a long time to go in."

"Lifting went reasonably well, but we had a lot of rain around the time of the Coronation and Liberation breaks, and all growers were affected by blight, which came in the late-planted crop."

"We spray less than we used to, but sometimes the weather catches you out. We would have been pleased to have the extra potatoes because the demand was there."

"Yields from mid-June were disappointing and that was due to damage caused by the persistent easterly winds in April and May. The overall impression from growers was that this season was better than the one before but not a great one, because of those yields at the end."

"We all chose to grow less and rotate more this year. It was the right thing to do but, if I’m honest, we would have been pleased to have the extra potatoes because the demand was there. People want our product, which is firstly down to the fact that we firmly believe that we have the best potato, and secondly, because farmers across Europe were growing fewer of them."

"If you can grow potatoes or cereals, you are going to choose cereals because that will pay more, with all the problems in Ukraine. Our farmers managed to get a bit more out of the market this season. They asked the supermarkets for more support to cover their own rising costs and, for the first time in a long time, the supermarkets agreed ."

"Jersey Royals were more expensive in the supermarkets than last year. The supermarkets did absorb the increased costs at times, but I think they also did fewer promotions. That higher price was important because growing potatoes is an expensive business. For example, fertiliser was GBP 280 (USD 352) a tonne in 2021, last year it went up to GBP 580 (USD 730) a tonne, and now it is GBP 800 (USD 1000) a tonne."
Jersey Farmers Union president Peter Le Maistre. (Courtesy: David Ferguson)

Jersey Farmers Union president Peter Le Maistre. (Courtesy: David Ferguson)

Reflecting on the season, St Ouen grower Paul Carré said he was ‘probably worse off than last year’ because of the rise in wages and the cost of fertiliser.

Paul Carré:
 
"We farmed about 40 vergées less than last year but we’re being asked to grow another 400 vergées next year, which would take us up to 1,500 vergées. It will require a lot of investment so we will have to see how we go. The investment required in farming now is horrendous. It’s GBP 100,000 (USD 125,000) for a tractor, and I was recently quoted GBP 50,000 (USD 62,000) for a sprayer. It makes every decision a significant one."
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