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Oven chips set to get bigger this year, says champion Norfolk potato grower

Norfolk farmer Thomas Love of Walcott Farms has been crowned McCain southern region champion potato grower.  Picture: Mark Bullimore

Norfolk farmer Thomas Love of Walcott Farms has been crowned McCain southern region champion potato grower. Picture: Mark Bullimore

Archant Norfolk 2015

Food lovers can celebrate the return of oven chips to their usual size this summer, according to a champion north Norfolk potato grower who is expecting to harvest a bumper crop.

Thomas Love, of Walcott Farms, has been crowned McCain's champion grower for its southern region - making him their best supplier south of the M62 motorway.

But he joked that he saw himself as the "least worst potato grower" after the challenging 2018 growing season when the baking hot, dry summer affected the size and quality of potatoes - prompting processors including McCain to reduce their specifications by 5mm and make shorter chips.

However Mr Love, who said he was "astonished" to win the industry accolade after such a difficult year, expects a much more positive picture when this season's potatoes head to the chip-makers.

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"I must say how good everybody's crops look this year," he said. "We are hoping for a really bumper crop this year, with yields and quality standards back to normal, so hopefully everyone will have longer and bigger chips to gorge on. We will probably have a glut of potatoes this year rather than a shortage.

"The whole industry had to reduce their quality and size specs last year because of this 'wonderful' summer that everyone had. It seems difficult to remember how hot and dry it was now. But we were helped by the fact that we farm against the sea, which reduces our heat issues.

"Our unirrigated yield was 32 tonnes per hectare when we had hoped to do 45 tonnes. Our irrigated crops did slightly above normal, which just shows how important that irrigation is.

"The blokes worked really hard in keeping what water we could on the ground, and lifting the potatoes well. It was an all-round team effort, it always is. "It was a pretty awful year - we thought we had done so badly, but no-one had their best year. We have done well in challenging conditions."

Mr Love said Walcott Farms supplied about 7,000 tonnes of potatoes to McCain last year.

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