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Spuds are a mash hit again thanks to a warm summer
Heatwave creates bumper potato crop down on Rectory Farm
SPUDS, it seems, are back.
After two wet summers left potatoes in short supply, this year’s heatwave means spuds are firmly back on the menu for farmer Richard Stanley.
Mr Stanley, 57, runs Rectory Farm Pick your Own and Farm Shop in Stanton St John, near Oxford, and produces 120 acres of mixed potato crops in fields outside the village of Little Haseley.
He said: “The last few years have been very wet and, worse still for potatoes, had very little sun.
“As a result, supply went down and prices went up.
“We didn’t fare too badly compared to some farmers across the country, but even so, last year’s crop was down at least 10 per cent and that meant we lost money and consumers had to pay more for what potatoes there were.”
Following poor harvests in 2011 and 2012, potato crops went down by 25 per cent nationally and the price rose on average by half with more French varieties going on sale in British supermarkets to meet demand.
Mr Stanley has farmed at Rectory Farm for 30 years, after following his father Tom Stanley into the business.
He said: “We supply small salad potatoes to Sainsbury’s and main crop potatoes like Saxon, Wilja, Desiree and Mozart to other supermarkets as well as farm shops around the county.
“The news so far is that this year’s crop looks good.
“The harvesters are about half way through with another four weeks to go and early indications are that yield is high, with a total of about 2,000 tonnes across the different varieties. So whether you prefer your potatoes mashed, roasted, boiled, baked or chipped, it’s good news for everyone.”
Dave Thompson, from the Potato Council, said: “Last year, 2012, was a very challenging year for the potato industry overall. However, 2013 has seen things return to normal.
“Each year, specialist potato growers manage the crop with different weather conditions. This year we have had a cold spring which delayed planting, but then the hot spell helped the crop catch up.
“Potatoes are mainly grown for a specific market at a pre-agreed price and they remain a good value option.”
Oliver Black, 20, runs the Happy Cod in Atkyns Road, Wood Farm, Oxford.
He said: “We are currently paying £4.50 a bag for potatoes at the moment, compared to £10 a bag last year, which is good news.
“But potato prices change all the time and while there are lots at the moment, prices are low.”