The question of Jersey’s agricultural industry’s commitment to the war effort has long caused rumblings of discontent. On one hand, farmers have consistently complained about the damaging effects of labour shortages. On the other, a suggestion that farmers are not sharing the burden of providing men for the armed forces. Recently released figures are bound to rekindle the debate.
They reveal that this year’s value of potato exports was £808,800. It’s a 41 percent increase on 1916 – itself a record year – during a time when many farmers claimed they are struggling. Given the huge rise in earnings, families in town that have seen fathers, sons and brothers conscripted recently may question the validity of such claims. A long-held suspicion is that farmers are merely using the excuse to keep their sons safely at home.
There is another explanation for the increased revenues however. The British Army has been buying Jersey potatoes at a fixed price per tonne. While farmers initially claimed the price was too low when the scheme was introduced, it seems that many have done very well later in the season when the open market value of potatoes declines considerably.
A/E/10/7 contains considerable correspondence and reports of the value of potato exports in 1917 and other years.