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British planted potato area one of the lowest on record

According to AHDB figures released yesterday, the 2020 GB planted potato area is one of the lowest on record seeing a 2.3% year-on-year drop. In a news report (which we republish below), AHDB says the total 2020 planted GB area (revised estimate) is 117.47Kha.

This updated estimate indicates a drop in planted area of 2.3% compared to last year and represents the GB area covered by over 90% of producers. This puts the planted area for 2020 as the third smallest on record, behind only 2016 and 2017. The driving force behind the drop is mainly the processing sector, but also the fresh bags sector with a combined reduction of 4.1Kha.

Since the estimate based on 80% of growers, some larger growers have submitted their planted areas showing they have dropped their area more significantly than many of the earlier submissions. This has caused a larger drop than usual and highlights that with 10% of submissions still outstanding we could see some further changes to these estimates.

GB planted area by region

The East of England has held the position of largest potato growing region at 33.4Kha, although has seen a marginal (<1%) year-on-year decline. The planted area in the East of England has gradually been increasing over the past 4 years (2016-2019) and the estimated 2020 area still sits c.480ha above 2018 plantings.

Other regions that have recorded only marginal (<2%) year-on-year changes to planted area include Yorks & Humber, South West and Scotland.

There has been some significant drops in planted areas in regions badly hit by the weather events of both 2018 and 2019. A drop in planted area of 1.1Kha is estimated for the North West, a region particularly effected by the wet weather experienced in 2019. By 12 November 2019, 33% of the North West’s crop was estimated to still be in the ground and the rain continued right through the winter causing continued problems.

The potato area in the North West has been declining quite dramatically since a peak in 2017. A key driver behind the drop in planted area for the North East and North West combined comes from the processing sector; a reduction of 574ha (22.6%) from last year.

Other regions with cuts of 700-800ha to planted area include the East & West Midlands. Both these regions have been following a long-term trend of reduced area year-on-year. Since 2011 plantings, the East and West Midlands have seen a reduction of 1.4Kha and 3.4Kha respectively.

GB planted area by sector

Despite the total GB planted area being 2.3% lower year-on-year, there are some greater changes on a sector level. The area planted with the fresh bags market in mind, generally for wholesale or farm shops, has seen a drop of 22.8% compared to last season, at 4.7Kha. However, this is one of the smallest sectors in potato plantings.

Potatoes intended for the pre-pack and processing sectors remain the largest area by some distance, making up 67.4% of the total planted area when combined. The biggest sector, pre-pack, at an estimated planted area of 44.32Kha, saw a rise of 698ha (+1.6%) compared to 2019. This is not a surprise given the strong retail performance of fresh potatoes in supermarkets at the time of planting contrasting the lower foodservice demand.

The processing area, on the other hand, has experienced a cut to planted area. With an estimated 34.8Kha planted with the intention of reaching processing markets, that’s a drop of 7.1% (2.7Kha) year-on-year. When compared to the 5-year average processing area, this is a lesser drop of 3.6%. Processors have been hit badly by the coronavirus outbreak wiping out huge chunks of the foodservice sector so this is not hugely surprising to see.

More information

The planted area by variety, including a downloadable file of the Top 50 varieties by planted area is due for release next week (Friday 16th October).

Source: AHDB

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