Published online: Apr 22, 2009
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Farmers on the island of Jersey between England and France are looking to a bumper crop of their iconic potatoes this season after extreme heavy rain seriously damaged production the previous two years.

Last year production of the famous Jersey Royal potatoes was particularly badly hit after the island suffered the heaviest rainfall for at least 35 years.

Planting started one month earlier than normal in a bid to catch up with lost sales and the result is the crop was a record three weeks earlier than normal.

Jersey Royals are widely regarded as the champagne of the potato world and are the biggest export from the island.

British supermarkets sell £35 million ($52.1 million) of Jersey Royals each year which accounts for nearly half of all potatoes bought during spring and summer.

The earliest outdoor Jersey Royals are traditionally planted on steep, south facing slopes known locally as Côtils and are covered with a plastic mulch to protect them from the elements.

These early slopes this year produced great quality early crops -- aided by the warmest late winter Jersey weather for a number of years.

Growers received further good news this year after striking a major deal with British supermarket chain Tesco plc to supply the supermarket with the first of this year's crop.

"British shoppers love Jersey Royals which are rightly acknowledged as the best spuds in the business, so it's good news for both farmers and customers," Tesco potato buyer Jonathan Corbett said.

"Not only do Royals taste like no other potato, but they are also evocative of the summer months when they are on sale so they bring about a feel good factor that salad days are here.

"Last year Jersey Royal growers suffered the worst harvest in living memory after extremely and prolonged heavy rainfall when the potatoes literally had to be dug out of the ground aided by tractors."

Plantings were increased by 20 percent this year. If placed side by side this season's crops -- all of which are hand planted, dug and graded -- would reach from Jersey's famous Gorey castle to Sydney Opera House in Australia.

"We planted in this one particularly sheltered area of the island in early December with setting a growing record firmly in mind," Jersey Royal Co. production director Barrie Hamel said.

"It is the earliest I have ever planted outdoor Royals for export and we have been closely monitoring the progress of the crop throughout winter. I am thrilled with the way they turned out."