Britain’s seed potato sector is in turmoil, with just 10 weeks before exports to Europe and Northern Ireland (NI) face a total ban under a no-deal Brexit, reports Jonathan Riley for Farmers Weekly. As an EU member state, Britain has exported 30,000t of seed worth £13.5m to mainland Europe each winter. However, after 31 December, Britain will be classified under EU trade rules as a “third country” unless a trade deal is reached with the EU.
The NEPG (North-Western European Potato Growers) estimates that the total harvest will be 27.9 million tons this season if all potatoes in the ground will be indeed harvested. In a press release the NEPG says the harvest is later than usual with all the risks involved and there are still some potatoes in challenging wet areas in Western Belgium and Great Britain. This is 4,5 % or 1 million tons more than last season in the 5 leading potato countries. The NEPG considers that the growers in the North-Western EU will plant 15 % less next spring.
Record potato sales continued at retail from July through September 2020, according to a news release issued by Potatoes USA. Total store potato sales are said to have increased by 13.6% in dollar sales and 10.6% in volume sales, compared to the same time frame in 2019. These sales levels are also the highest they have been for the past five years. Frozen potatoes showed the greatest increase compared to a year ago, with a dollar sales increase of 23.9% and a 19.7% increase in volume sales. The only category that declined compared to a year ago is deli-prepared sides.
South Africa has seen a massive surge in potato prices in recent months, after an unusually cold winter in Limpopo hurt the early part of the province’s harvest This month, the average market price of a bag of 10kg potatoes in South Africa (across all classes and markets) reached an eyewatering R83. As recently as June, the average price was R34.40, according to data from Potatoes SA. This means an increase of 140% in four months.
According to the latest potato market report by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), liftings continue this week in Ireland following a reasonably dry few days. There are continued reports that yields are below average especially in areas that were affected by drought earlier in the year. As it stands, IFA says that growers supplying the food service sector have had one of the worst years on record. Trade for Kerr Pinks is holding steady and quality is reported as very good.
Roman Nekrasov, director of the crop production department of the Ministry of Agriculture in Russia reportedly said that in the first nine months of 2020, Russia exported 254,800 tons of potatoes (both table and seed), which is almost 36% more than in the same period last year. Nevertheless. while potato imports are declining, they still exceed Russian potato exports. Over the first nine months of 2020, 293,400 tons were imported into Russia (in 2019 the official figure provided is 298,300 tons). This means that it is necessary to develop the storage capacity of potatoes in Russia.
The review of the decision by Biosecurity Tasmania on fresh potato imports comes with a couple of modifications to the original decision which upset Tasmanian potato growers. Biosecurity Tasmania has also been given a slap on the wrist by Primary Industries Minister Guy Barnett for the way in which the decision was made without consultation. And the company which won the approval to bring potatoes into the state says the process to get the go ahead has been a waste of time as none wants to market the spuds.
The certification scheme, ‘Safe Haven’, has recently been reviewed and updated to cover areas such as closer monitoring of water use and crop storage, AHDB says in a news release published yesterday. Administered by Red Tractor, the UK’s largest food standards scheme, Safe Haven protects against any pest or disease that can be imported or introduced by seed, AHDB says. The seed potato sector is important for the British potato industry as a whole as seed potatoes are a valuable export commodity.
Tasmanian supermarkets have thrown support behind the state’s potato producers, confirming they will not stock imported potatoes, according to a report by Caitlin Jarvis published by The Examiner in Australia. Caitlin reports that a conditional import licence was approved in June for South Australian company Mitolo Group to import fresh potatoes into Tasmania. However, the products will not end up on supermarket shelves. Coles, Woolworths, and Island Fresh, which operates the IGA chain of independent supermarkets, on Monday confirmed they would not stock the imported SA potatoes in Tasmania.
Potato prices in India started rising in December 2019 due to the delay in harvesting the early rabi crop, according to an article by Samarendu Mohanty, Asia Regional Director of the International Potato Center (CIP). In a recent news article published on the CIP website, Mr Mohanty wtires that although prices fell a bit in February and March with the arrival of the new harvest, they have remained higher than average during the same period in previous years due to less area planted, lower yields and transportation issues.
The latest HMRC trade data shows that exports of fresh potatoes (both ware and seed) were down significantly in July 2020 compared to the start of last season (Jul-19). According to an AHDB news report, imports of fresh potatoes (excluding seed) were also down in July 2020. For processed potato products the story was slightly different, writes Alice Bailey, Senior Analyst Potatoes. An increased volume of processed potato products have moved out of the UK, but less imported compared to July 2019.
According to information published by the UNIAN Information Agency, the Ukrainian Deputy Minister for Development of Economy, Trade and Agriculture, Taras Vysotskyi, says the ministry plans to ban imports of potatoes from Russia as a tool to support Ukrainian potato growers. According to UNIAN, Ukraine in 2019 increased potato imports, mainly from Russia, by 43 times, to a record high 250,000 tonnes.
The Irish Federation of Agriculture (IFA) reports in its weekly market update report that liftings continue at pace this week across Ireland as weather conditions have improved. The IFA says conditions are still challenging in parts of the country and growers are behind schedule at this stage. According to the IFA, the first EU 27 production estimate puts the total crop at 54.8mt’s which is about 3.7mt’s higher than last year. The total planted area at 1.655 million ha’s is about 26,000 ha’s higher than last year.
Potato seed and ware exports from the UK could be interrupted in a Brexit no deal scenario and there are signs that seed potato growers are looking to export potatoes before the transition period ends on December 31, writes Marianne Curtis in an article published by Farmers Guardian. Patrick Hughes, AHDB head of export trade development – potatoes, explains: “At the moment we don’t have third country equivalence and if there is no deal, it will not be in the offing straightaway. This would stop all exports of potatoes to the EU – both seed and ware.”
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.
In a news story published by iAfrica, titled “Urgent Action Needed To Protect SA’s Potato Industry”, it is said that South Africa is a key destination for processed potato product exports from the EU “where there is a history of dumping”. This is set to have a negative impact on the country’s agricultural sector and surrounding communities, according to the news article. André Jooste, CEO of Potatoes South Africa (PSA), is quoted as saying that the local potato industry has already suffered significantly from a decrease in demand as a result of COVID-19 related regulations, such as the closure of restaurants and fast food outlets, restricted trade and movement of informal traders.
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.
A group of U.S. Senators is encouraging action to be taken in the potato dispute with Mexico. In a letter sent to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the lawmakers urged more support for U.S. exports of fresh potatoes. Mexico was the third most important destination for potato exports in the marketing year 2019, valued at $239 million. According to Potatoes USA, the volume of American exports of frozen potato products increased 12 percent to Mexico for the marketing year 2020, after a 20 percent retaliatory tariff resulted in a disappointing 2019.
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.
According to the weekly Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) Potato Market Report, the potato market has been quieter as of late but this is typical for the time of year. Demand will return to normal as we approach September. The fresh chip market in the U.K.is still below par due to the impact of Covid 19. This has also impacted the market in Ireland due to cheap UK imports and a weaker sterling which are undermining local grower prices.
Three Republican senators are calling on Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to use “all available mechanisms,” including U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement provisions, to ensure market access for U.S. potatoes in Mexico, according to a report published by World Trade Online. While the Mexican government in 2014 allowed some U.S. potatoes to be sold throughout the country, the decision has since been mired in litigation, which is awaiting a ruling by the Mexican Supreme Court.