Trends

McCain steps in to support UK potato industry, put three-to-five-year loyalty scheme in place for growers

The UK’s £1bn potato growing sector has been hit so hard by extreme weather and coronavirus that its largest customer is stepping in with £25m of support to secure its supply chain. The hardest hit growers have been those who sell in the spot market rather than under contract, such as those selling for “fresh chipping” on the premises of food outlets. McCain, which buys about 15 per cent of the UK’s annual potato crop, normally has one-year contracts with growers. But as part of the £25m investment it will put in place a three-to-five-year loyalty scheme so farmers can be assured of their market.

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Global potato statistics: An overview

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) maintains a databasis on many different crops, named FAOSTAT. It provides a powerful search facility that users can employ and manipulate to obtain data about a chosen crop. I extracted data for the potato crop related to “production” and “area harvested”, and present the results in the tables below (for 130 countries where potatoes are cultivated). The latest FAOSTAT data available is for 2018.

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‘Another unpredictable year for potatoes’

Potato acreage will be lower this year but by how much? Tom Karst, Editor-in-Chief of The Packer asks this question in an article published earlier today. He says an acreage estimate from the subscription-based North American Potato Market News indicates a fairly significant cut in potato acreage, according to a report in Spudman. According to Mr Karst, it sounds like the early scuttlebutt is that the processors may have underestimated the rebound associated with French fry demand, which is coming back faster than the processors anticipated. That could set up a competition for potatoes between processors and fresh potato shippers later in the year.

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Resurgence in Northern Ireland’s potato consumption

The latest Kantar figures confirm that Northern Ireland’s potato packing sector has grown by 3.9% over the past year in terms of total turnover. All the sector’s key parameters: including frequency of purchase and volumes purchased per retail visit are all up with one very obvious exception, according to a report by Farming Life. Wilson’s Country managing director Lewis Cunningham takes up the story: “The average price of potatoes in the shops has fallen over the past 12 months.

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Video: Idaho potato growers reflect on the impact of COVID

Idaho’s potato season was promising at the beginning of the year. The Idaho Farm Bureau shows how the coronavirus pandemic changed everything. In a video interview with RFDTV, Randy Hardy with Hardy Farms says: “It was fantastic, clear up until the virus hit. I was telling people I farmed for 48 years waiting for a year like this because it was the perfect storm. …When the country shut down and COVID protocols were set in place, the market and consumer demand shifted….” Grower Merrill Hanny of Hanny Farms in Shelley is also interviewed.

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Potato Weekly: Will the ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme energise potato trade?

In the August 7 issue of Potato Weekly, AHDB Analyst Anthony Speight writes that once again trade across the week can been described as relatively subdued in the UK. The Government’s new “Eat Out To Help Out” scheme started this week. The scheme is designed to encourage people to visit restaurants, cafes and pubs, which have been badly hit by the lockdown. Diners across the UK will be able to enjoy half-price meals at eat-in food and drink venues on Monday to Wednesdays at more than 72,000 venues. Speight writes that it’s still quite early to see if this will re-energise potato trade.

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The technology behind a new agricultural revolution

By 2050, Earth is projected to be home to ten billion people. To feed them, we will need to increase crop production by at least 60 percent, writes Matt Harman in this blog article published by ESRI. Yet climate change, water scarcity, and soil erosion will force us to rethink how we grow crops. And rampant urbanization, with so many people living far away from agricultural areas, will force us to find more efficient ways to distribute food. The third green revolution builds on established precision agriculture practices, while creating a larger picture of the agricultural landscape farmers are operating within.

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Market upturn in Canada means Cavendish deal now off the table

An agreement reached earlier this spring that would have seen Cavendish Farms receive $4.7 million from Prince Edward Island taxpayers to help store and transport processing potatoes will not be activated due to an uptake in restaurant sales. When the PEI deal was finalized in March, there were approximately 100 million pounds of processing potatoes in storage. Figures released by United Potato Growers of Canada in mid-July showed that figure had been reduced to 3,725 hundredweight (417,000 pounds).

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Market for food service remains flat in Ireland; low tuber numbers in early harvested crops

In the latest IFA potato market report published today, it is said that the market for the food service sector remains very flat as pubs and restaurants are slow to get going again. Retail demand has leveled off but remains positive. The early market is holding quite well and lifting continues along the east coast, however, there are more reports this week that tuber numbers are down. The NEPG expect the EU crop to be slightly higher this year. Plantings have increased by around 0.5%.

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Supply shortage, rise in demand push potato prices in India up by 40% in major cities

In the major metros of Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai, potatoes are selling for Rs 30-45 per kg, depending on the variety and quality. In Mumbai, a kg of potato is priced at Rs 35-45, while in Delhi and Kolkata prices are hovering between Rs 30-40 per kg. Potato traders from Uttar Pradesh, the largest producer of potatoes in India, said prices are unlikely to come down until November, when the new crop starts coming in.

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Signs of some recovery in global restaurant fry demand

Major potato processor Lamb Weston and global quick service restaurant chain McDonald’s saw sales fall significantly in the three months to the end of June, but it could have been much worse. There are also some signs of a recovery in restaurant fry sales, although fears over coronavirus remain, according to Cedric Porter, editor of weekly market briefing World Potato Markets. Lamb Weston’s sales were 16% lower in the quarter than the same period last year, with demand from foodservice distributors and smaller restaurant the most affected.

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Bayer launches carbon capture program for U.S. and Brazil farmers

Bayer AG launched a pilot program in the United States and Brazil on Tuesday that will pay farmers for capturing carbon in cropland soils, making it the latest agriculture company to capitalize on environmental initiatives. The company seeks to enroll about 1,200 row crop farmers in its Bayer Carbon Initiative in the first season, scale up in upcoming seasons, and ultimately expand to other countries, company executives said.

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Storage life post-CIPC: AHDB specialists address key grower concerns

Three storage webinars hosted by AHDB in the UK in June were an opportunity for British growers and store managers to hear from the team of storage experts at Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research, as well as cleaning and agronomy specialists. To complement the webinar sessions AHDB answered some frequently asked questions around key topics of potato storage post CIPC in a news release issued today.

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British potato imports and exports drop throughout May

The latest HMRC import and export data is now out and this covers up to May 2020. Both imports and exports season-to-date (Jul-May) were down compared to both last year and the 3-year average. The driver of the overall drop in imports comes from processing, primarily the reduction in frozen potato products coming into the UK. Exports have also taken a hit this year with May figures dramatically down, at 19.3Kt. Year-on-year comparison shows a drop of 79% for total exports (-73.3Kt).

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Retail potato sales soar in the US

Potatoes USA reports that retail potato sales are soaring, increasing 31% in dollar sales and 32% in volume sales between March 16, 2020 and June 14, 2020, according to IRI. All potato categories across the retail store, except deli-prepared sides, increased in dollar and volume sales, Potatoes USA says in a press release. The majority of potato categories saw double-digit growth in both dollar sales and volume sales. Dehydrated potatoes had the largest increase in dollar and volume sales. Dollar sales increased by 59%, and volume sales increased by 49%.

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Price of potato seed may increase in India this year

Less quantity of potato seed coupled with higher seed price this year is likely to impact the potato production and farmers’ income in the country during rabi season, according to Samarendu Mohanty, Asia Regional Director of the International Potato Center, Peru. Dr. Mohanty says compared to previous years potato seed storage is 30% less now while the seed price has more than doubled since the last season. Expecting a further hike, seed producers are waiting to fix a higher price as the planting time approaches, he said.

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Potatoes USA pulls back the curtain on consumer buying behaviors

Potatoes remain a leading category staple at retail. As growers keep pace with increasing demand, Potatoes USA continues to bring value for both growers and retailers. Lilian Diep, writer for AndNowUknow got in touch with the organization to learn more about the initiatives and studies that will take place this upcoming fiscal year. “We’re working on a couple of things over this next year. Right now, all of our retail growers are moving at full capacity to bring products into stores,” Kayla Dome, Marketing Manager, said.

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Stats Canada released estimate of 2020 potato acreage

Statistics Canada has released its first estimate of potato acreage in Canada, compiled from data obtained from its survey of potato growers in Canada. Given the cuts in processing volume that were handed out at, or before planting time, the industry had expected a decrease in planted acres. Total acreage is estimated at 363,470 acres. Canada’s acreage peaked at 457,500 acres in 2003.

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UK: ‘Let’s talk!’ – AHDB open session announced

Folks, the following note was sent to us here at Global Potato News, and we are happy to publish it for your information as such. AHDB: We are pleased to invite you to this open session of the AHDB Potato Board where we will be discussing the potato levy and storage research. In response to what was said in Defra’s Request for Views about how the potato levy is collected, we are reviewing the basis of how your levy is calculated this summer and welcome businesses sharing their views with us. We will outline how the levy is collected, and why the system was created in its current form, before sharing some ideas we’ve already received on potential options for the future.

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National Potato Council accepting talk submissions for Expo

The National Potato Council in the US is accepting submissions for Potato Talks to take place during its Potato Expo 2021, which is scheduled for Jan. 6-7 in Grapevine, Texas. The organization is seeking submissions on topics including advancements in production agriculture, on-farm solutions, current trends, advancements in research, business management and economic outlook. Sessions will be 20 minutes, plus 10 minutes for questions and answers.

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McCain Foods unveils Australia’s largest ‘behind-the-meter’ renewable energy system

McCain Foods Australia has announced today it has commenced construction on a renewable energy system that will reduce emissions from its Ballarat food processing facility by more than 27,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. The project, which will house Australia’s largest “behind-the-meter” renewable energy system, will subsidise McCain’s energy consumption in Ballarat by 39 per cent. The solar power, which will be generated from unused flat space on existing land surrounding the plant, will also provide three electric charging ports and shaded car spaces.

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Poor potato harvest hits McCain UK’s profits

Profits more than halved at frozen foods specialist McCain UK last year as “one of the worst potato harvests in 40 years” hit its bottom line. Newly filed accounts for the year to 30 June 2019 show McCain’s operating profits fell 63% to £21.3m from £57.6m a year earlier. It said it maintained a value share of 54% and a volume share of 42% of the UK frozen potato category, according to IRI data for the 12 weeks to 20 June 2020.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor/Publisher of Potato News Today


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