The NEPG (North-Western European Potato Growers) estimates that the total and final potato harvest for its members for the 2020 season will be on par with the 5 year average total.
In a press release issued recently, NEPG says the total planted area has increased with 1,4 % in 2020 compared to last year’s planted area. It estimates the total harvest to be 27,9 million tons, compared with 26,9 million last year in the big 5 potato producing countries in Europe – Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany and Great Britain.
This is 3,8 % more than last year. A large harvest, although not as large as the total harvest of 2017 with 29.6 million tons. After the heatwave in July and August, the crop is more mature than usual at the time of harvest. Recent trial harvests are on average showing only 200 – 300 kg tuber growth per day, which is extremely low.
The NEPG reports large yield differences between its 5 member countries, as well as within regions of each country.
The market is out of balance
COVID-19 resulted in lockdowns and a significant drop in demand from the foodservice sector for potato products globally. Demand from the retail market for potato products increased, however, not enough to cover the lack of demand from the Hotel, Restaurant, and Catering-industries.
NEPG says it is obvious that the actual balance between demand and supply is completely lost at this time, which is also clear in the actual prices paid for free potatoes and future price indications. This applies mainly for processing potatoes.
The actual demand from processors has increased again as of late, however, not at the same level as before the Corona crises. Most factories seem to have enough frozen product in cold stores, contracted potatoes and hardly need extra free-buy raw material. The NEPG expects that the low prices for non-contracted potatoes will remain at a lower level until at least the end of the year or even longer. The market for fresh table potatoes is doing slightly better.
Growers urged to reduce 2021 area under production
The NEPG is advising its growers in member countries to “take control and be masters of their own destiny”. Growers are urged to reduce next year’s planted area.
NEPG says: “It is no use to plant potatoes and receive low prices. Save your precious land for the future and set-aside or plant better crops (i.e. cereals for example) for your soils.”
It is time for risk management and careful cost price calculations, according to the NEPG. “Will the demand for processing potatoes return to the precious level, and how can we adjust the supply during this new situation?” should be the main criteria at the moment for growers.