Cultivation/Production, Europe, UK, Ireland, Fresh/ Table, Studies/Reports, Trade/Markets/Prices, Trends

Analyst Insight: How tight does the British potato market look?

This autumn has been the wettest across England since 2000 and the fifth wettest on record. These conditions have hampered lifting across GB, with progress particularly slow in Yorkshire and the North of England. What impact might this have on supply levels for the coming season? Much depends on the sector, as Aidan Wright, Analyst at AHDB explains in this article, published 20 Dec, 2019.

By the start of November, an estimated 482Kt was still in the ground. However, despite challenging lifting conditions, crops that have gone into store seem to be faring okay at this stage. Wetter material was moved as quickly as possible to minimise any negative impact in stores. However, at this stage in the season there is no overall view on the volume of this.

The key watch point will be the end-November stocks survey, which will give the first estimates on volumes shifted early to avoid storage problems later in the season.

Much of this will be sector dependant, with different GB regions growing for different sectors.

Packing prices have been creeping upwards due to the weather pressure on the market, but have not reached the highs of last season. Part of this is due to an expansion in contracted area this season to 70%, which has reduced free-buy requirements for packhouses.

Equally while parts of Lincolnshire and the Fens were hard hit by the weather, Scottish crops came out of the ground in good order and are storing well. With a large proportion of the Scottish packing area (77%) grown to contract this year, a significant volume of Scottish free-buy supplies could head into England and weigh on packing prices.

Yorkshire and areas of the North West and North East were the worst hit by the weather throughout the entire lifting period. These areas received increased rainfall earlier than the other counties and, in terms of percentage, had the largest proportion of area still to harvest at 12 November, ranging from 20-30% unharvested.

With European yields below average and the area steady for table varieties, there is a reduced opportunity to import significant volumes for the packing market. There is also a strong demand for table potatoes from Eastern Europe with shortfalls in Poland, Czech Republic and Romania.

Post-Christmas, the volume of potatoes leaving Scottish stores will likely set the price ceiling of the domestic market. Scottish supplies may head south of the border, pressurising English prices.

Read the full article (including figures and graphs) on the AHDB website here

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