Due to poor weather affecting harvests and storability, there’s a tightening supply of free-buy potatoes in the EU, driving up prices. As of February 2024, Dutch processing potatoes hit a record February high of €37.5/100kg. The processing industry is strained, with increased imports and a 10.8% production drop. Losses are estimated at 650 thousand tonnes, heightening competition and prices for remaining stocks.
Ireland’s potato industry is grappling with dwindling stocks and empty grower stores, as highlighted by the Irish Farmers Association (IFA). Difficult harvesting has led to clay-contaminated potato boxes, reducing saleable yields and pushing up prices. This trend is echoed across Europe, with rising processing potato prices and cautious market responses. The U.K.’s planting delays may further strain the tight potato supply and inflate prices, affecting everyone from farmers to consumers.
At the WTO’s 13th ministerial conference in Abu Dhabi, members of the European Coordination Via Campesina protested against neoliberal agricultural policies. Highlighting a direct link to the impoverishment of farmers across Europe, they voiced frustration over decades of unfair policies that have increased production costs, stagnated farmer wages, and led to significant personal debts among farmers, despite their efforts to increase production. The ongoing farmer protests in Europe demonstrate the dire situation and demand for change.
‘The golden crop’: New report details how the U.S. potato industry bolsters the economy and job market
The National Potato Council’s report, prepared by Michigan State University economists, highlights the significant economic role of the U.S. potato industry, worth $100.9 billion. With $2.2 billion in exports from July 2022 to June 2023, accounting for 20% of U.S. potato production, these exports underpin substantial domestic activity and jobs—nearly $4.78 billion in economic contribution and about 33,846 jobs. The potato industry at large supports over 714,000 jobs across the nation.
On February 26, 2024, the National Potato Council will host a roundtable to discuss a report by Michigan State economists on the U.S. potato industry. The report predicts a $1 billion GDP increase and thousands of new jobs from expanded potato exports. Key figures from the council will speak and answer media questions. The findings could position the U.S. as a significant global agricultural player and strengthen international trade relationships.
Michigan’s potato industry generates over $2.5 billion for the state’s GDP and supports roughly 21,700 jobs, solidifying its status as an economic powerhouse and the second-largest commodity in Michigan, behind apples. A Michigan State University study highlights its significance, with Michigan being the national leader in chipping potatoes, supplying one-fourth of U.S. potato chips.
Australia’s potato industry has exceeded a $1 billion production value, marking a 24% increase from the previous year. This milestone is attributed to investments in automation and innovation. Annual production remains steady at 1.4 million tonnes. The significant growth, as detailed by ABC Landline, suggests strong and sustained demand, echoed by the experiences of growers like Michael Smith.
The Irish Farmers Association reports steady potato sales in Ireland but warns of a rising scarcity impacting prices due to a weak overwintered crop. Harvesting challenges and poor weather have delayed up to 50 acres of potato crops for some growers. Similar issues in Northern Europe have led to seed shortages for processors and a 7% reduction in seed area, affecting supply chains and market stability throughout the continent.
Two years into the U.S. potato industry’s access to the Mexican market, National Potato Council CEO Kam Quarles, consultant Matt Lantz of Bryant Christie Inc., and Kim Breshears of Potatoes USA convened at Potato Expo in Austin to analyze the endeavor and future expansion plans, writes John Groh in an article published by The Produce News. That despite previous market disputes, the U.S. persisted, leading to increased market access past the initial 26-kilometer border zone.
Irish and European potato markets: Resilience in the face of rising costs, tight supplies and seed scarcity
The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) reports that the Irish potato market remains strong despite rising costs and seed scarcity, with sustained demand in home consumption, retail, and food service sectors. Irish potato farmers are grappling with the dual pressures of rising costs and limited availability of seed potatoes. This situation is is a reflection of a broader European trend. Tight supplies across the continent have led to a significant increase in costs, putting additional financial strain on farmers.
Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) is sharing its renowned potato-growing expertise to aid Ukraine’s economic recovery. Former MP Wayne Easter’s P.E.I.-based company initiated a large-scale potato planting and harvesting operation in Ukraine, adapting to local conditions by using Scottish seeds. This project supports Ukraine’s reduced imports from Belarus due to strained relations, aligning with the nation’s need for economic advancement as stressed by the Ukrainian Prime Minister.
At the Canadian Potato Summit, UPGC’s Victoria Stamper presented an insightful analysis of the potato industry for 2023-24, highlighting a record high potato stock and shifting production trends, with a 7.2% storage increase. Canada’s potato production reached a new peak with over $1.5 billion in sales value. She discussed challenges like surplus storage, quality management, cost pressures, and shifts in consumer preferences. Opportunities for Canadian exporters in the global market, especially in Europe, were emphasized.
Ukraine’s potato industry is experiencing a severe price surge, with costs up to four times compared to last year’s. A shortage of quality potatoes due to lower yields is driving this spike as the season ends. Consequently, imports, especially from Poland, are increasing to meet demand, affecting Polish market prices as well. This creates critical challenges and opportunities within the industry, emphasizing the importance of strategic planning and global collaboration.
Resilient Irish potato market navigates harsh weather, shortfall reported in European potato supplies
The Irish Farmers Association reports a rise in potato sales due to their economic value in the cost-of-living crisis. Despite tough harvesting, consumption has increased, with the UK and Northern Europe facing supply challenges. Potential losses in Europe could lead to 800,000 tonnes of potatoes being lost, prompting interest in imports to cover deficits in spring. This situation offers both obstacles and prospects for the potato industry.
British farmers, represented by Riverford Organic’s petition-backed protest featuring scarecrows outside Parliament, request MPs to enact stronger protections against the “big six” supermarkets’ buying practices. With 49% of farmers at risk of going out of business within a year, they urge for reforms in the grocery supply code. The debate follows as over 110,000 people advocate for a grocery industry overhaul.
During the cold wave in Ireland, potato sales are on the rise, as reported by the Irish Farmers Association. Despite a tough harvest reducing yields, demand and prices for quality potatoes remain steady. Across Europe, with 15,000 hectares still unharvested, the market shows strength and a trend towards higher prices. Exports are reviving, especially towards the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe, indicating growth potential in international markets.
Zimbabwe restricts import of potatoes from South Africa due to an outbreak of Pepper ringspot virus (PepRSV). The Ministry of Lands aims to protect the local potato industry. The International Plant Protection Convention issued a notification on the detection of PepRSV in South Africa, warning of potential negative effects on trade and export. Symptoms of PepRSV in potatoes include brown lines, rings, and flecks, with potential economic losses due to quality issues.
Governor Brad Little of Idaho recently led a successful trade mission to Mexico, focusing on strengthening agricultural trade, also in potatoes. Joined by state departments and 20 Idaho businesses, the mission aimed to expand Idaho’s $202 million export market in Mexico. Key activities included promoting Idaho potatoes to major retailers and discussing research collaborations. This mission highlights Idaho’s commitment to enhancing its economy through international trade, especially in its renowned potato industry.
Ukrainian potato prices have surged to 15-20 UAH/kg ($0.39-0.52/kg), representing an 11% increase from the end of 2023. This price spike is attributed to dwindling local supply, exacerbated by unfavorable weather and subpar seed potatoes. Market players anticipate further price hikes due to a potential scarcity of high-quality potatoes. The latest hike reflects a 3.9-fold increase from early January 2023.
Potato market update: Climatic challenges and rising demand in Ireland, the UK and Europe as Christmas approaches
As the festive season approaches, Ireland is experiencing a surge in potato demand, leading to challenges for farmers. The high clay content in harvested crops is complicating yield predictions and causing storage issues. In the UK, there’s an increase in direct movement of potatoes from farms as buyers prepare for Christmas, leading to firm prices for chipping varieties. Across Europe, efforts are underway to harvest remaining crops amidst challenges like frost damage.
In Q3 2023, US potato exports saw a major boost, with an overall 10.8% increase in value, reaching $607 million, according to Potatoes USA. The fresh potato segment showed growth in exports value and volume. Particularly, exports to Mexico soared by 48.8%. However, the exports fell in Canada and Taiwan. The frozen potato sector saw a mixed trend, but dehydrated potatoes saw significant growth. Potato chips and seed potatoes demonstrated varied trends.
A rain-delayed harvest in Europe has increased the potato supply in the market. These lower-quality potatoes, selling directly from field to processor, have suppressed price increases. Hardest hit regions are the Netherlands and Belgium, with 15% and 11% of their crops still uncollected as of late November. Market players anticipate a price surge once these late-harvested potatoes are processed. However, there are concerns about the availability of free-buy potatoes due to the high proportion of early processed crops.
The Irish Farmers Association reports a strong demand in the potato market due to the festive season, leading to price adjustments. However, unusual weather conditions have hindered crop harvesting and storage, reducing the saleable yield. The situation extends beyond Ireland into Europe, with parts of France, Belgium, and Holland also facing challenges in harvesting due to cold weather and heavy rainfall.
Canadian potatoes are flooding U.S. markets due to a favorable exchange rate, resulting in financial hardship for Maine farmers. Despite having a good crop quality, they are struggling to compete with cheaper imports from Canada. The present situation is worsened by Maine’s wet growing season. Maine growers historically have pushed for more federal agriculture subsidies to equal what they perceive as the Canadian government’s generous support of farmers.