Fuelling an Island icon

The Jersey Royal potato is as famous as the Jersey Cow, Lillie Langtry, and Bergerac. But how the renowned kidney shaped tuber gets from field to fork is an untold tale.

Most people notice when the fields are planted out because sheets of plastic cover our green and pleasant côtils and they also know when the crop is being lifted because the countryside roads and lanes are teeming with tractors and heavy machinery of all shapes and sizes.

The season officially runs from January to the end of July during which time nearly 25,000 tonnes of potatoes worth in excess of £24 million are harvested, destined mainly for the UK market. Timing is everything because getting our new potatoes onto the shelves of supermarkets ahead of those of our competitors is essential to the continued success of this island icon, and the industry and livelihoods it supports.

The biggest operator and the largest agricultural land manager in the Island, is the Jersey Royal Company, which is a fully integrated produce company farming over 4000 acres of land.

The businesses is run like a well-oiled machine to grow, grade, wash and pack the potatoes for export and at the peak of the season in May and June up to 500 people are employed in the business.

The company is committed to farming in a sustainable manner that has a minimum impact on both the local and global environment, and adheres to strict national standards. State of the art technology is employed alongside traditional methods dating back to the earliest Royal Jersey Fluke (as it was called when it was first pulled from the ground), with some côtils still hand-harvested and vraic used as a natural fertiliser spread on selected fields to improve the soil.

Barrie and Glen Hamel of the Jersey Royal Company come from several generations of farmers, and have been growing potatoes themselves for almost half a century. The Jersey Royal Company work 1,600 fields covering 9000 vergees of prime agricultural land spread across the island, with five main sites from which they operate their business.

A large fleet of mechanical equipment, with over 200 vehicles including tractors, vans, minibuses and a coach, as well as assorted other equipment have to be kept running round the clock during the busiest months. Although they have some vehicles that can run on battery power or gas the majority of their fleet is powered by diesel, and that means being supplied on a regular basis.

There are over 10,000 litres of oil per site, at each of the five sites. The tanks are linked to a sophisticated Merrydale fuel system, with secure coded driver access so that the Company can keep track of how much fuel they are using; they can also see how individual farm vehicles are performing: a spike in usage will indicate a mechanical problem or inefficiency, perhaps due to the age of the vehicle, which means action can be taken swiftly and fuel is not wasted.

The company also owns accommodation for its staff, including a hotel, all of which requires heating and again the chosen system is oil-fired central heating because of its efficiency and cost.

Fluctuations in the price of oil can have a massive impact on a business of this scale. The Jersey Royal Company knows it cannot do much about global oil prices, but what matters to them is a reliable supplier and they have chosen Rubis for more than 40 years. Barrie Hamel says knowing that their tanks will be kept topped up is essential; equally important is the response of the supplier in times of emergency. The ability to act immediately in these situations requires a great deal of experience, significant infrastructure and a guaranteed supply.

Rubis has 60 years’ experience in fuelling the Island economy and community, not just in ensuring its products are competitive and available, but working with customers to understand their business needs.