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Lack of river management threatens potato crop

The aftermath of heavy rainfall and ineffective river maintenance in Co Down.

A combination of heavy rainfall and poor management of rivers by local river agencies, has led to unnecessary field flooding and crop destruction in areas of Northern Ireland, according to the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU).

“A large amount of rain has fallen across the country in recent days and while we are unable to control the weather, the lack of river management has been the catalyst causing field flooding and wide spread damage of crops in the process,” said William Irvine, deputy president, UFU. “This could have been easily avoided if the maintenance of rivers had been more effective and the correct river infrastructure had been put in place by local river agencies.

“It’s a high investment for potato growers to grow quality potatoes for both the seed and processing markets only for them to be submerged in the field. With the average cost of production in the region of £2,500 per acre, the financial implications have the potential to be devastating for a family-run farm business.

“It’s even more devastating when the flooding could have been prevented and comes down to poor river maintenance which is not our farmers’ responsibility, and yet it creates another challenge for them to overcome. Years of ineffective river maintenance results are now having costly implications for our growers.”

Drumadonnell river in the townland of Drumadonnell, Ballyward Co Down, is one of the rivers that burst its banks and set against the backdrop of one of NI’s iconic landscapes the Mourne Mountains, potato crops are submerged under water.

“This year has been an extremely difficult one for everyone, including our farmers,” said Irvine. “They have overcome numerous obstacles and adapted their farm businesses to COVID-19 measures ensuring high-quality food was being produced and moved off-farm reaching shops across NI since the pandemic began. The loss of crops because of bad river management is the last thing they needed, and it should have never happened.

“The UFU are now in the process of investigating the vacuum and impact of bad management by river agencies in the Moneyslane/Ballyward catchment areas on the outskirts of Castlewellan.”

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