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Swedes fear new potato shortage

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18:29 CET+01:00
Swedish new potatoes and lettuce, those prized specimens of the summer dinner table, could be both expensive and hard to get hold of this year. The late snow and cold weather is delaying spring planting across country, according to The Federation of Swedish Farmers.

"As a farmer you're getting ready for the spring sowing around now, but today it doesn´t look like it'll be starting within the next two weeks," said Bengt Persson, vice-chairman of the federation in Skåne.

He´s also a farmer who grows potatoes, corn and sugar beet on 160 hectares north of Helsingborg.

"The farmers of Skåne are most often the first to start with the spring sowing, followed by their colleagues in Västra Götaland around a week later and then the farmers in Mälardalen two to three weeks later," said Persson.

"Furthest up north it doesn't normally start until two months later. This year the snowy spring could delay the work all over the country."

Bengt Persson reckons that the spring planting in Skåne will not start until the week following Easter.

Very cold weather and snow during the winter doesn´t matter, he says. On the contrary, the rape crop planted in the autumn is actually protected by the snow cover.

To get a good harvest in the autumn from the crop which will be sown now, the continuing growing season must include exactly the right amount of warmth and moisture.

But the fact that the early crops, such as new potatoes, lettuce and carrots, will be sown later will probably mean a reduced harvest.

The potatoes also have less time to grow until the big harvest at Whitsun - Sweden's first major new potato consuming weekend of the year.

"We might end up with a big shortage of new potatoes if the beautiful winter weather changes into a cold and rainy spring," said Bengt Persson.

"We can´t tell today and it has nothing to do with the late spring sowing, he added.

The pressure's off for Persson himself, though: his spuds do not have to be ready until the autumn.

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