The past four months have not been smooth sailing for potato production, the North Western European Potato Growers (NEPG) says in a news release issued earlier today.
Despite the challenging weather conditions, initial yield estimates suggest a return to multi-year averages. The NEPG estimates that growers will harvest around 23 million tonnes of early and maincrop potatoes. This is 1.3 million tons more than in 2022 and equal to the 2021 production.
Late blight (Phytophthora infestans) will have a significant impact on the 2023 harvest, with severe attacks on tubers in some sub-regions. Truly, another exceptional growing season.
On average, planting dates were three weeks later than usual, around the 15th-20th of May instead of the 20th-25th of April. The weather in August led to a sharp increase in yields but also sustained very high levels of late blight.
Mid-late varieties such as Fontane and Challenger, and late varieties like Markies, will not have all their growing days unless crops are left to grow until mid-October. Lower tuber counts and physiological disorders (hollow heart, misshapen, rot), and especially tuber blight, will affect net production. Additionally, reduced underwater weights will decrease processing yields.
Impact of blight
The impact of tuber blight needs urgent assessment, according to the NEPG. Growers are strongly encouraged to inspect every single field they own and determine if they have issues with tuber blight. Evaluating the impact of tuber blight is crucial to decide on further steps regarding haulm destruction and storage planning.
NEPG emphasizes the importance for producers to communicate about this issue with their buyers. Weather in the upcoming weeks will either stabilize the problems (blight, hollow hearts, rots, etc.) or exacerbate them.
Increased processing needs, export prospects
There are increased processing needs and promising export prospects. While the 2023 production is comparable to that of 2021, processing needs have significantly increased. Processors in the NEPG zone require at least an additional 2,000,000 tons of potatoes compared to two years ago.
Due to reduced productions in Poland and southern Europe (attributed to smaller planted areas and adverse weather conditions), the export season has already begun. The competition between industry buyers and exporters will once again be a focal point.
Overall, experts in Europe believe that the demand for processed products will continue to grow by around 4% annually.
Source: North Western European Potato Growers (NEPG)