By Humphrey Carter THE first of some 25'000 tonnes of potatoes started to be harvested yesterday with Britain one of the main export markets for Sa Pobla's potatoes. The past few years have been disastrous for Sa Pobla potato growers; harsh winters, freezing temperatures, unseasonal rains and hurricane force winds all but wiped out last year's crop and severely damaged the one the year before, but this year, Sa Pobla is toasting a bumper crop which has come earlier than ever. One of the local co-operatives, Mateu & Uco, which incorporates 140 growers in the area, started work harvesting potatoes yesterday in the Can Peu Blanc area. Company director Joan Mateu Caldes said that, as far as he can remember, this is the earliest potato harvest ever. He said that apart from the mild winter, the variety of potato sown and the hard work of the local farmers has made this year's early harvest possible. Many of the farmers have been eager to get harvesting in a bid to try and hit the overseas markets before the competitors and recoup as much money as possible after two years of losses. Britain was one of the original export markets, but now Sa Pobla potatoes will be shipped and trucked to Germany and parts of Scandinavia. In total 25'000 tonnes of potatoes are destined for overseas dinner tables. What is more, the potatoes being harvested now are very easy for the armies of farm labourers to pluck from the ground by hand. The mild winter in Majorca has not only helped the local potato crop but, according to Caldes, has stunted crops in northern Europe. “What we hope is that the good weather continues here and in our export destinations, that way demand for our potatoes will remain high. “The price of potatoes in Britain, Germany and Scandinavia is currently high, but they're having to import large amounts to meet demand and our potatoes are better and more popular that the new potatoes,” he explained. Like many of the Sa Pobla potato growers, Caldes believes that Majorca has escaped heavy freezes, hail storms and snow for this winter. “We've got an excellent crop this year, good plants” and providing there is not a drastic change in the weather “we're looking at another bumper harvest and a quality crop again next year. “In the meantime, the good weather means we can just continue producing and exporting.” When the first Sa Pobla potatoes started to reach the UK a decade ago, they were not easy to find and, more often than not, were sold by local green grocers. Now however, thousands of tonnes are heading to the country's leading supermarkets and are readily available. During the past poor years, the Balearic Ministry for Agriculture has helped to ease the financial burden and compensated many growers for losses caused by the storms. The goverment has also helped the region boost its export market.