An unprecedented rise in all input costs looks set to impact the price of potatoes in the shops throughout Ireland, with industry representatives predicting a 30% rise in price in the coming months.

Commenting on the impact, Wilson’s Country managing director, Lewis Cunningham, said:

“Significant hikes across all energy, fuel, growing inputs such as sprays and fertilisers, as well as land and labour costs, are now in train.

“Some of these factors have been impacting all manufacturing businesses over recent months including our packing, distribution and storage operations.

“With the continued increases coming at us in 2022, unfortunately we have no option but to pass these increases down the line to our customers.”

According to the management team at Wilsons’s Country, there’s no sign of any easing with these costs and it’s likely that these costs will be sustained throughout 2022.

“The coming weeks will see growers commence the planting of first early crops. This will be followed later in the spring by the planting of main crop potatoes.

“The reality is that farmers are also facing dramatic increases in the cost of all crop inputs at the present time.

“The end result will be a significant increase in the production cost of all potato crops coming out of the ground at harvest time this year.”

He continued:

“But Northern Ireland is far from being alone in this regard.

“Farmers and growers around the world are being impacted by fast increasing costs of production at the present time. This will have a universally strong impact on international food prices throughout 2022.”

Wilson’s Country agronomist, Stuart Meredith, explained that fertiliser prices have more than doubled over the past 12 months.

“Fertiliser prices are currently over double the price compared to the same period last year with no sign of prices easing before planting.

“Supply and demand may actually become an issue through March and April, which may drive further price rises.

“As many potato growers rely heavily on annual rental agreements, buying up stocks of fertiliser last autumn wasn’t an option for them as much of the land wasn’t secured at that stage.

“Last year, it was costing approximately £200-£250/ac to fertilise a potato crop, depending on different soil analysis. This year, we could be looking at somewhere in the region of £500/ac.”

Stuart added that the demand for clean, virgin land has increased within all the agri sectors over the last number of years.

He further explained:

“In turn, this has pushed the price being paid by potato growers for the right land up by approximately £150/ac.

“Another input that has seen a significant rise in price is fuel. It takes approximately 250 litres of diesel to produce an acre of potatoes.

“Last year, red diesel was hovering around 50p/L: at the minute it’s closer to 75p/L.”

According to the agronomist, some of the chemistry used in potato production has also experienced huge increases in price over the past few months.

“Some products have doubled in price in the space of six months,” he confirmed.

“All the above increases have made growers very nervous about going forward into a new season.”

Taking all of these factors into account, the members of the management team at Wilson’s Country believe that the overall cost of producing, packing and distributing potatoes is estimated to increase by upwards of 30% over the coming months.

Meredith added:

“Given this backdrop, 2022 is a year for farmers to really be aware of all their costs, management of these costs along with excellent crop management will be essential." 

Cunningham concluded:

“All sectors of the agri-food industry are facing major increases in their cost base at the present time. Unfortunately, potatoes are no different in this regard.”