Great Britain’s grower-held potato stock levels at the end of March 2017 were at 1Mt, around the same volume as the end-March 2016 and 300Kt less than the end-March 2015 according to an AHDB estimate. Despite the similarity in stock levels, any repeat of the high prices seen in 2016 will depend on a number of factors including availability of purchasers own stocks, quality of stored stocks and growing conditions for the current season. Acording to Amber Cottingham, Analyst at AHDB Potatoes, “2015/16 saw some very high prices paid towards the end of the season, as it became apparent that planting would be late and harvest was likely to follow suit, which extended the 2015/16 storage season. Conditions for ambient storage were also reportedly very poor, due to the mild winter, which meant many stocks had to be sold off earlier than anticipated to prevent loss from quality issues.”
Planting progress is well ahead of last year. Nonetheless, growing conditions and ultimately the weather will determine whether harvest follows suit. Said Cottingham: “If the weather is beneficial to crop growth, then there is a possibility of a normal, or even an early harvest. When added to the prospect of an area increase this year, as we suggested in early May, prices for stocks currently in storage could be subdued later in the season.”
AHDB’s potato stock estimates are based on survey data that covers growers’ stocks only and does not include stocks held by purchasers. The 2016/17 season has followed a slightly unusual profile, with a relative slowing in drawdown from growers stocks between the end of November and January caused by high ex-farm prices discouraging purchases. The rate of drawdown returned to typical levels from January to March of this year.