Europe, UK, Ireland, News November 2023, Processing, fries, chips, Retail, Trade/Markets/Prices, Trends

Adapting to crisis: Evolution of the UK potato industry amidst unprecedented challenges

The British potato industry is undergoing significant changes amid a series of challenges, as reported by Tim Foggin, MD of Yorkshire potato supplier Wolds Produce, at the recent British Potato Show in Harrogate. The sector has faced a ‘perfect storm’ due to COVID-19, the Ukraine war, rampant inflation, and volatile weather, leading to a sharp decline in production, as Fred Searle reports in a news story published by Fruitnet here.

Despite these hardships, there has been progress in customer support for growers. However, this support has not been uniform across the retail sector, with some customers pushing for unsustainable prices. The challenges for growers have caused seed potato production to decline by about 23 per cent in the past two years, according to the Seed Potato Producer Register, which is the best indication of potato plantings in the UK.

In response to these challenges, there have been shifts in contract negotiations. Wolds Produce is discussing longer contracts of two to three years with crisp manufacturers, incorporating more price flexibility. This approach aims to provide more stability and support for growers.

Stephen Park of major potato packer E. Park & Sons acknowledged that retailers, wholesalers and foodservice suppliers operate in a very competitive environment and can’t automatically give their suppliers all the price support they need.

The industry has seen support from crisp manufacturers, who have agreed to price increases mid-contract to help growers cope with the inflationary period. This collaboration has been crucial in ensuring the survival and future production of potatoes.

However, the sector still faces significant hurdles. The UK’s potato crop could potentially be the lowest ever recorded, with estimates as low as 4.14 million tonnes this season, compared to 6.2 million tonnes in 2017.

Source: Fruitnet. Read the full story here
Photo: Tim Foggin. Credit Fruitnet

Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse


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