Potato stocks held by growers at the end of March were 20% higher than the same point last year due to the impact of Covid-19 on consumer demand. Figures from AHDB show that the stocks of potatoes in Britain totalled 1.19 million tonnes, which is 5 percent above the five-year average, the FarmingUK team reports.
Drawdown, the rate at which potatoes are delivered from store, was 2 percent down on average between January and March.
David Eudall, head of arable market specialists at AHDB, explained that the figures are from the end of March, so they only include one week of the ‘lockdown effect’. But the ‘big impact’ on the sector had been the way the coronavirus pandemic has changed consumer demand, he said.
“From 23 March, the industry saw wholesale closures of fish and chip shops and other foodservice outlets. There are reports of some chip shops reopening across Britain, but sales are likely to be significantly reduced,” Mr Eudall said.
Dr Rob Clayton, potatoes strategy director at AHDB, said that the specialist nature of the potatoes used for each part of the market meant some growers could suffer ‘large financial losses’.
“With one or two exceptions, a different set of varieties is used to make chips in restaurants from the ones consumers are used to seeing on supermarket shelves.
“If you’ve got a shed full of potatoes that were meant for making French fries, you might currently be unsure whether a year’s worth of work to grow and store them will amount to anything – it’s a stressful situation.”
A trade portal will be launched next week where wholesale potato buyers and merchants can post requirements for potatoes, and growers can post available stocks.