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Are there signs of recovery for British potato markets?

According to a report by Anthony Speight, Analyst at AHDB, the month of May has been relatively static across the industry in general. The initial lockdown caused a divergence in demand between the retail and food service sector.

Speight writes in his report: “We have since seen their respective demand stabilise momentarily and we are at a juxtaposition that relies on further uplifting of lockdown restrictions for demand to increase.


According to Speight, lack of precipitation throughout May has been a concern for some growers. It has proved problematic for both lifting of earlies and development of maincrop. For many, irrigation schedules have been rolled out early as concerns exacerbate.

Colder snaps in mid-May, resulting in frosts, hindered the development of some crops along with strong wind causing problems, particularly in northern parts of England.

Trade overview


Throughout the successive weeks of May, free-buy trade across all sectors was described as ‘relatively flat’. 

With lacklustre demand due to the current situation, the May free-buy tonnage reported in our Weekly Average Price Survey (WAPS) did not have a large degree of variance and growth stagnated. These levels are still not at pre-coronavirus tonnage.


In May, contracts have in most cases met demand. Total tonnage reported in our WAPS throughout May, was very similar to April. Similar to free-buy, this level is still not at the pre-coronavirus tonnage.

Sector overview


Throughout May we have seen chipping material, where possible, move into packing lines. Which at times has depressed the grade 1 packing prices.

At the start of May the free-buy packing trade was described as being slightly higher than normal for the time of year. However, towards the middle of May reportedly steadied out and found a ‘new normal’ even drawing back towards the end of the month.

Wholesale and delivered food boxes have increased in popularity as lockdown continues resulting in a lift in demand throughout May. Despite subdued demand for packing material towards the end of May, demand for Maris Piper has remained consistent. Prices are holding firm for top-quality packing material as they become harder to source.


Throughout May we had increased reports of chip shops reopening. Outlets that featured on take out apps, mostly in built up urban areas have reported to have a successful customer base.

At the start of May we saw the bag trade plateau, compared to the exponential growth in demand throughout April, as chip shops started to re-open. This level of growth was unseen throughout May as coastal areas, by large remained shut, despite the easing of the lockdown measures.

The bag trade is still feeling a hit from the lockdown measures imposed resulting in a lack of demand.  Consequently, many shops have reduced opening hours and are reportedly running at 50% capacity at best.

As more chip shops opened increased demand was not felt, it merely diluted the trade. Furthermore, as other fast-food outlets come back to the scene there is worries that this could further impact demand.

For the bag trade to re-energise and increase demand, further easing of lockdown measures are required to boost coastal trade, which is currently missing.


Closure of the food service industry continued to impact the processing sector throughout May. This said, there has been a continuous stream of material utilised for peeling and mashing jobs, but this demand has been limited. With the lack of demand for processing material the majority of this has been fulfilled through contracts.

Source: AHDB
Photo above:

Anthony Speight

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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