The potato market is notoriously volatile with huge yearly peaks and troughs. The volatile nature of potato pricing is, to some extent, related to the weather which is rather unpredictable. This is more so relevant in potatoes than most other UK crops because of the domestic nature of potato markets with very little global trade. This makes it hard to plan long-term profitability. So says Alex Cook, AHDB Analyst Potatoes & Cereals and Oilseeds, in this article.
Record potato retail sales continued from October to December 2020, the second quarter of Potatoes USA’s marketing year 2021. The industry body says in a press release that all three months saw an increase in both dollar and volume sales, with the largest growth in December. Total store potato sales grew 9.3% in volume and 12.3% in value. Prices also increased for consumers by 2.7%, which contributed to the 12.3% increase in dollar sales.
The French Ministry of Agriculture this week announced that potato producers who had to allocate processing potatoes to outlets other than for the process sector due to the pandemic will financially be compensated for losses incurred. Producers have until February 2 to apply online. The news site Terres et Territoires reports that ‘good things come to those who wait for it’. After six months of waiting, potato producers will finally be compensated “for the losses resulting from diverting unprocessed potatoes to other outlets, in the context of the health crisis associated with the Covid-19 pandemic”.
In this week’s blog, AHDB’s head of export trade development for potatoes, Patrick Hughes, examines the issues around gaining third country listed status for seed potatoes and what the industry might do if a resolution is not reached. The news that ware potatoes have been awarded third country listed status and trade into the EU and Northern Ireland will continue is welcome. Unfortunately, the EU also confirmed they will not accept the case for a permanent change to the prohibition on seed potatoes.
According to the Fiscale Inlichtingen en OpsporingsDienst (FIOD), Dutch criminals are increasingly using potato exports to Africa to launder money, FIOD chief Bert Langerak has said. Investigations by the tax fraud detection body, whose annual report was published on Monday, has shown that criminals ‘exported’ at least €150m worth of produce, particularly potatoes, to Africa in the last five years.
A potato seed merchant is counting the cost of a Brexit deal blow that will see him lose up to £125,000 a year. Iain Barbour has been banned from exporting potatoes to Northern Ireland or the EU from January 1. The manager of family-run JBA Seed Potatoes said he “still can’t believe it has been allowed to happen”. Staff had to work around the clock to make sure all orders to Northern Ireland and Europe were posted out ahead of New Year’s Day.
The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) potato committee say they are ‘outraged’ to learn that several local packers and dealers have been lobbying for potatoes that have been produced outside of Northern Ireland (NI) to be imported from January 1. Chair Robert Sibbett, speaking on behalf of the committee, said: “We are shocked and horrified that a number of local processors, packers and dealers have given the impression that there is a supply and quality issue with our locally produced potatoes, going as far to state that imports are better. …This shows no respect for Northern Ireland potato growers.
Over the coming months, Mallorca’s Sa Pobla potato exporters will be faced with considerable new bureaucracy as a result of Brexit. Mallorca Daily Bulletin reports that Mateu Export is responsible for around two-thirds of the potato exports to the UK. Its manager, Joan Mateu, says that the total export process, already aggravated by Mallorca being an island, will slow down. This is because of phytosanitary certification and documentation for the customs system in the UK. S’Esplet, another exporter, also anticipates problems.
Scotland’s rural economy minister has pledged to do “everything possible” to reverse the “damaging impact” of the UK’s trade deal with the EU on seed potato farmers. Mr Ewing said he held talks with industry leaders this Monday and an urgent meeting with Mr Eustice. From Friday, seed potatoes will be banned from being exported to the EU, which could have an estimated £15m impact on the sector in which Scotland accounts for three-quarters of the UK’s 280 growers.
COVID-19 has “scrambled” the outlook for potato growers, said economist Bruce Huffaker, who is president of North American Potato Market News, Inc. Huffaker believes the potato market has made up a great deal of ground following the COVID-19 hit, and demand should be relatively strong looking ahead. Between April and June, global trade in french fries declined by 30%. It’s been recovering since then, Huffaker said. “One of the challenges we are seeing still is while global trade is only down 2.8%, North American exports are still running 15% behind last year’s pace,” Huffaker said.
John Toaspern, Chief Marketing Officer at Potatoes USA provides insight from this year’s Sales and Utilization study of US potatoes. “With everything that has occurred this past marketing year, it is very important for us to understand what has happened with the sales of potatoes in the US market and how the crop was utilized based on an analysis of potatoes and products sold at retail and food service and accounting for the volume of US exports and imports,” Toasperm says.
Northern Ireland’s potato industry is reportedly hoping against hope that a derogation allowing the importation of both ware and seed from GB into the province, beyond December 31st, can be sorted out over the coming days. According to Wilson’s Country chairman Angus, the reality is that Northern Ireland’s potato sector is very dependent on having unfettered access to both ware and seed imports from the rest of the UK. This trade must be allowed to continue, as is, into the future.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has accused the UK government of selling out farmers in Scotland after it emerged that seed potatoes are set not to be included in a post-Brexit trade deal. Scottish seed potato farmers are one of the biggest exporters for the production of chips and crisps in the world, with the sector accounting for three-quarters of UK production and worth about £112m a year. Northern English farmers will also be particularly affected.
Industry bodies have welcomed news of the EU’s decision to grant third country status to the UK, a move which came as the UK was poised to sign a trade deal with the EU on Christmas Eve. However, concerns remain over the lack of detail in the announcement and its exclusion of the seed potato industry – a lucrative source of income for growers, and a key crop for Scottish growers
Exactly a year ago, potatoes were seeing tight supplies and solid demand and it was expected that pricing would be strong in 2020. Then came Covid-19. Bruce Huffaker, President of North American Potato Market News, says: “It’s been a very big challenge for the industry and for people in general.” 2020 has been the first year since 2003 that the global French fry trade has been in decline compared with the previous year, and while it won’t be able to recover this trend in 2021, it might be able to get back there in 2022, says Huffaker.
According to a news release issued by Potatoes USA, there was a 5% decline in the utilization of potatoes grown in the U.S. during the July 2019 – June 2020 marketing year (MY20). This conclusion was drawn from an analysis of the potatoes and potato products sold at retail and foodservice, and accounting for the volume of U.S. exports and imports. It is important to note that this decline occurred at the end of the marketing year. Sales to foodservice, retail, and exports, were up for the July – December 2019 period.
Wholesale prices for potatoes have decreased sharply over the past week in Egypt, driving Egyptian farmers to abandon their own crops due to lockdown polices from importing countries harming the Egyptian product, saturating the local market and causing low demand and widespread dumping. Experts claimed that the crop is subject to a dumping policy and warned that farmers would be reluctant to grow potatoes next season, calling for urgent intervention by the government to protect food security.
Fears have been voiced that English-grown potatoes will be effectively off the menu in Northern Ireland within days, unless a specific deal on tubers is hammered out by the UK government, writes Adam Kula in News Letter today. According to Kula, long-time potato merchant Brendan Donnelly made the comments as the end of the transition period next Friday looms – and he was backed up by DUP farming figure William Irwin, who echoed the same worries about a “crazy” de facto blockade on GB potatoes.
NEPG (North-Western European Potato Growers) says it is unsure of the current potato situation and does not expect major changes in the demand side of the market in the coming weeks. NEPG says in a press release that due to the pandemic, there is hardly any demand for potatoes on the open market from the processing industry, and prices are on an extremely low level. Another large challenge is the actual sprouting threat reported by growers.
Potato prices in India have dropped over 40 percent at primary agricultural markets in northern parts of the country in the last three weeks as the new crop has begun arriving. Subramani Mancombe reports for Moneycontrol.com. Prices in Uttar Pradesh’s Agra markets have crashed below Rs 1,600 a quintal from around Rs 2,900-2750 on November 24-25. On December 14, potato at Fatehpur Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) market was quoting at Rs 1,550 a quintal against Rs 2,750 on November 26.
The GB potato industry accounts for over 117.46Kha of planted area this year, and is represented by 1,611 growers in 2020. AHDB Analyst Alex Cook writes in this news report that British growers have faced difficult seasons of late. Last season, from a supply point of view with the challenging lifting conditions in 2019/20, and now this season from a demand point of view with suppressed levels as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. This article aims to cover a seasonal roundup of what has happened so far, as well as commentary on what December may hold for potato markets.
Despite the 2020 planted area to potatoes decreasing 2.3% year-on-year, potato production for 2020 is estimated to rise 4.1% (210Kt) to 5.37Mt*. This is in line with the 5-year average (2015-2019), but sits 676Kt below the bumper year of 2017. Although a year-on-year rise, this year’s production is only ranked the 7th largest since 2010 and is by no means a bumper crop. The rise in production, despite a drop in planted area, is driven by two main factors.
Potatoes USA announced earlier today that it has sent the first shipment of U.S. seed potatoes to Cuba. The mixed load of 10 different varieties will be utilized in trials conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture in Cuba. This trial process must be completed prior to commercial shipments of U.S. seed potatoes occurring. Concurrent to the trial shipment, USDA and the Ministry of Agriculture signed a market access protocol for U.S. seed potatoes to enter Cuba.
As the holiday season gets closer, demand for Wisconsin potatoes is stronger than last year. “We have a good supply of Wisconsin red and gold potatoes from this year’s crop along with an excellent supply of year-round of russet potatoes,” says Christine Lindner, marketing manager for Friesland, WI-based Alsum Farms & Produce. Lindner says the company continues to add potato acreage.