Between May and July this year AHDB’s marketing team ran a successful campaign which aimed to keep potatoes relevant to consumers while educating them about their versatility, ease of use and health benefits, the organization says in a recent news article. In response to the market dynamics created by COVID-19, AHDB says there was a need to create additional demand in retail and drive volume in sales to attempt to make up for some of the losses through foodservice. Bud the Spud’ was part of a marketing campaign (More Than a Bit on the Side) with proven positive results.
The outlook for the Idaho potato season was very promising at the beginning of the year. Then, in the middle of March, with the impact of the Corona virus becoming aparant here in the US and globally, everything changed. “It was fantastic,” says Idaho potato grower Randy Hardy. “Until the virus hit, I was telling people I’ve been farming for 48 years waiting for a year like this, because it was kind of like a perfect storm, you know? It looked like it was going to be a good marketing year…” But then the pandemic put an end to all of this. Bill Schaefer in Idaho produced a video in which the owners and managers of four prominent Idaho potato operations discuss the economic impact of Covid-19.
Potato consumption has remained resilient in Britain over the past six months, despite closures in the foodservice market, according to figures released by AHDB. Strong retail sales led to an overall 12% volume increase for potatoes in the six months to 9 August, according to AHDB estimates based on Kantar data. Over the 24 weeks ending (w/e) 9 August, retail sales volumes of potatoes and potato products rose well ahead of the total food and non-alcoholic drink uplift. The return of big fast food brands in June helped lift takeaway volumes of potatoes.
Through the Innovative Farmers programme, four farmers located in Shropshire and Lancashire in the UK are looking at an alternative control method that uses plants known as trap crops that naturally ward off potato cyst nematodes (PCN). Trap crops are better described as ‘deceiving’ rather than ‘trapping’ plants. The chemicals released from the trap crop roots signal the presence of suitable food and trigger the nematodes to emerge from their safe hiding place in the cyst. The nematodes begin feeding on the trap plant roots instead of the potatoes, ahead of potato cropping.
Total losses from the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on the Washington State’s potato industry is estimated to top $1 billion, according to a study by Washington State University. Farmers have lost about $29.2 million from the drop in demand and quality of the 2019 harvest, according to the release. Acreage for the 2020 fall harvest dropped 13%, which represents a drop of more than 729,000 tons of potatoes, according to the commission.
An alliance of chemical firms has published thousands of scientific studies online to support its application for the EU licence renewal of glyphosate, which is due to expire in December 2022. The dossier contains approximately 1,500 scientific studies. Roundup users have blamed the weedkiller for causing their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers. But Bayer has strongly denied the claims and repeatedly defended the product’s 40-year safety record.
According to the latest Potato Weekly report published by AHDB in the UK on Friday, the past week has seen free-buy trade fall once again. AHDB Analyst Alex Cook reports that movement of supplies on contract continues to hold the majority in potato markets. Repeat orders, in some cases with lower volumes, form the common comments this week rather than fresh demand. Anticipation and uncertainty surrounding a potential re-imposing of stricter lockdown measures has seen some purchasers await further information before placing orders, meaning demand has subdued.
The American Journal of Potato Research (AJPR) is the official journal of the Potato Association of America. This journal has 60 open access articles. Volume 97, issue 4, August 2020 can now be accessed online. Here is a sampling of some of the articles published in this issue.
With the coronavirus pandemic hitting the UK domestic potato trade, we have estimated a 1% drop year-on-year in the GB potato area for 2020/21, with the provisional area standing at 119Kha. AHDB market analysts (Potatoes and Cereals) Alex Cook and Anthony Speight prepared a report in which they take a closer look at how things are stacking up for the British chipping market at this time. In the report they forecast Britain’s potential chipping area for the 2020/21 marketing year; review pricing of chipping potatoes since covid-19, and forecast demand going forward and how this could affect the ex-farm price of chipping potatoes.
A University of Idaho-led team will tackle a pair of viruses that cause major losses to the potato industry. In a press release issued by the University, it is said that U of I researcher and potato virus expert Alex Karasev will lead the project funded by a $5.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute for Food and Agriculture. The team of two dozen scientists will target potato virus Y (PVY) and potato mop top virus (PMTV) in seed potatoes, the first level of commercial potato production, and in potatoes grown for market.
Researchers in Canada’s Alberta province are studying how potato farmers and their crops could benefit from new irrigation technology. The industry and government supported project “Towards Climate-Robust Irrigation Water Management for Potato Production” is now in the second year of its 4-year run. The project is investigating if precision irrigation can help increase water use efficiency and potato crop yields in Alberta.
Despite 2020 being a difficult year in many respects, San Luis Valley potato growers have been able to raise a very good looking crop this season, reports Rebecca Copley in this article published in The Conejos County Citizen. As farmers get ready to head into harvest, James Ehrlich, Executive Director for the Colorado Potato Administration Committee, shared that it is hopeful. “I think potato farmers have had good prices and demand. People are eating at home. All these signs are good for us. Our crops should be better than last year for sure. It would really surprise me if it wasn’t. Prices are strong. I think we’re set for a pretty good year,” said Ehrlich.
Despite an increase of 60% in the area of cultivated land, production has been declining from an average of 20 tonnes a hectare to around 9.1 in Rwanda, 8.6 in Kenya and 4.3 in Uganda. This is way below the potential production of 40 tonnes a hectare. The factors contributing to the low and declining yields include losses due to attack by a range of pests and diseases. Potato cyst nematodes (PCN) are the most recent pest threat to emerge in the region. Targeting the nematode during hatching and just before it invades host roots, stands out as the most vulnerable life stage to target for their management.
NEPG urges growers to reduce planted area in 2021, although current harvest total expected to be average
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. 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. 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.
Plant protein discovery could reduce need for fertilizer and improve the tolerance of crops to climate change
Researchers at the University of Nottingham in the UK have discovered how a protein in plant roots controls the uptake of minerals and water, a finding which could improve the tolerance of agricultural crops to climate change and reduce the need for chemical fertilisers. The research shows that members of the blue copper proteins family, the Uclacyanins are vital in the formation of Casparian strips. These strips are essential structures that control mineral nutrient and water use efficiencies by forming tight seals between cells in plants, blocking nutrients and water leaking between.
Processing potatoes supply is still outweighing the reduced demand on the domestic market. Given that most planting decisions had been made this year when the pandemic hit, this demand erosion has had minimal impact on the GB potato area. Indeed, the current estimate of 119Kha is only 1% back on 2019. In recent years, the processing area has been increasing steadily, standing at 37.5Kha last year. Using the proportion the processing area made up of the total GB area last year (31%), we could estimate 2020 area to stand around 37Kha.
Many potatoes are in pretty good shape given the growing season they have had, but growers will be less impressed with the prices they are getting as Covid-19 continues to dominate the market, reports Cedric Porter of World Potato Markets for Farmers Guardian. Prices remain depressed. Early season values are as low as €20/t (£18/t) because of a large carry-over of stocks from last season.
The ADAPT project aims at identifying new breeding targets and matching potato varieties to specific challenging environmental growth conditions of the future, according to a press release issued by the University of Vienna. The ADAPT consortium has successfully launched the project “Accelerated Development of multiple-stress tolerAnt PoTato”, which aims at developing new strategies to make potatoes fit for the challenging growth conditions of the future. It will take place over the next four years with a total budget of 5 million Euro from the EU Horizon 2020 program.
The week has been described as relatively quiet across the board, with many supplies across all sectors utilised mainly on contract, writes AHDB Analyst Anthony Speight in today’s issue of the Potato Weekly report. He says slight increase in demand for certain sectors as schools start again after many months of being shut. However, stakeholders within the industry say this is not necessarily being felt as we head into a conventionally quiet spell.
USDA released its report on the number of potato acres planted in 2020. Potato growers planted only 921,000 acres in 2020, more than 47,000 acres fewer than in 2019 and 105,000 acres fewer than in 2018, according to an article published by Carol Miller in Growing Produce recently. It’s the lowest number of acres recorded by USDA in at least 100 years, Carol writes. Both processing and fresh markets are down. To better understand what’s behind the drop, American Vegetable Grower asked Washington State University’s potato specialist, Carrie Wohleb, what’s behind the trend.
Covid-19 has shaken up all predictions and profoundly changed the fundamentals of the 2019 campaign in France and the rest of Europe. On the French fresh market, it has meant a revival in terms of household consumption. For the industry, on the other hand, it has caused factories to slow down due to the very sharp decline in restaurant activity all over the world. So says the National Union of French Potato Producers (UNPT) in a recent press release. The organization urges the industry to stay focused on quality products, and not quantity.
Free-buy potato markets in the UK continue to see pressure on prices. Increasingly available supply for markets has met a widespread muted level of demand. Trade has remained on a steady level, consisting of mostly repeat orders. Processing markets have been reported as steady this week, with some better levels of demand for frozen potato products following the government ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ voucher scheme. Processing markets look to the return of education sectors for an increased level of demand in the next few weeks.