Trends

The potato market: Understand your breakeven point

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.

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Buoyant retail sales of US potatoes reported

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.

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The future of crop protection? GM plant grows insect sex pheromones as alternative to crop pesticides

Scientists have discovered how to genetically modify the camelina plant to produce pheromone precursors that can control agricultural insect pests without the use of pesticides. Revolutionary research is being done by ISCA, Inc., a “green” agricultural technology company based in Riverside, Calif., in collaboration with Lund University in Sweden. ISCA says pheromone controls are the future of crop protection.

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Processing potato producers in France to receive financial aid for losses due to COVID-19

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”.

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EU Exit Perspectives: British seed potato sector needs rapid resolution

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.

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PepsiCo doubles down on climate goal and pledges net-zero emissions by 2040

PepsiCo, Inc. today announced plans to more than double its science-based climate goal, targeting a reduction of absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across its value chain by more than 40% by 2030. In addition, the company has pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040, one decade earlier than called for in the Paris Agreement. Specifically, PepsiCo plans to reduce absolute GHG emissions across its direct operations by 75% and its indirect value chain by 40% by 2030. This action is expected to result in the equivalent of taking more than five million cars off the road for a full year.

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Unexpected purchases from Belgian processors shake up the potato market

The Belgian potato processing industry has set the tone for the Northwest European potato market at the start of the year after a number of Belgian factories unexpectedly purchased the product at a 5 euro base. As a result, it is said that the prices of the Belgian and French stock exchanges experienced an increase of more than 100% compared to the end of 2020.

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‘Stop/start’ harvest results in challenging year for Irish potato growers

Not getting the maincrop harvest completed until the days directly before Christmas has added considerably to the production costs incurred during 2020 by some potato growers including William Monagle from Co. Donegal. “Usually, we would be out of the fields at some stage during November; we normally start harvesting at the beginning of October,” Monagle told Richard Halleron of AgriLand. “An extended harvest adds to growers’ costs. Adding to the challenges faced by producers is the fact that average yields were down by around 20% last year.

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AHDB applies for Emergency Authorisations after Vydate ban

Following an announcement that nematode treatment Vydate 10g has not been re-authorised and as of 1 January this year it is no longer approved for use in the UK, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board has applied for emergency approval to provide limited use of the product for the 2021 growing season. Following consultation with stakeholders AHDB submitted requests for emergency approvals for those Vydate uses where growers lack alternative pest control options.

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Climate-smart varieties: Genetic marker for late blight expedites breeding from 10 to 5 years

As the global population approaches 10 billion by 2050, agricultural production will need to increase by 60%. Yet with every 1°C of warming, agricultural productivity is projected to fall by 5%. One model predicts that potato yields could decrease by as much as 32% by 2060, but the development and distribution of climate-smart varieties can ensure that this nutritious and fast-maturing crop continues to play a vital role in food systems in economies worldwide. To accelerate the development of those varieties, scientists have taken advantage of advances in genetic sequencing,

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British seed potato merchant banned from exporting potatoes to Northern Ireland or the EU

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.

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Mallorca potato exporters facing ‘considerable’ Brexit bureaucracy

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.

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US agriculture industry bets on carbon as a new ‘cash crop’

US farmers make their living raising crops from the soil each year. Now, some are getting paid for putting something back into their fields: carbon. In an article published by the Wall Street Journal, correspondent Jacob Bunge writes that big agriculture companies including Bayer AG , Nutrien Ltd. and Cargill Inc. are jockeying with startups to encourage crop producers to adopt climate-friendly practices and develop farming-driven carbon markets.

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Nearly 3 million farmers in Asia embrace CIP-bred potatoes, raising revenues and resilience

An assessment published in 2018 found that 19% of the total land area devoted to potato production in these seven countries was planted with varieties bred at the International Potato Center (CIP) or by national partners in collaboration with CIP. Between 2008 and 2015, the area planted with those varieties more than doubled to 1.43 million hectares. Over the past 40 years, CIP scientists have helped 2.93 million potato farming households to produce more food and generate more income.

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Scottish potato firm cuts 27 tonnes of plastic from its packaging

Scottish potato business Scotty Brand has cut almost 27 tonnes of plastic from its packaging in a year. Scotty Brand said it introduced a raft of plastic-saving measures across its range to help protect the environment in September 2019 which included thinner, recyclable plastic on its 2kg potato bags, Baby Potato bags and Chippy Chip packs and removing trays inside its Baking Potato packs. In total, these steps have seen Scotty Brand save 26,890kg of plastic.

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The recyclable packaging trend: PepsiCo’s partnership with bioplastics manufacturer Danimer Scientific

PepsiCo joined forces with Danimer Scientific several years ago with the goal to develop sustainable flexible packaging, Danimer says in a news release published on its website. According to the release, Danimer Scientific developed biobased compostable packaging for PepsiCo’s snack brands in the past. The new initiative is said to be “right in line with PepsiCo’s announced strategy to make all of its packaging recoverable or recyclable.”

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Future Farming: You cannot hide from the satellite!

There are many movies where satellites offer scary surveillance capabilities. Of course, it is science fiction, but with the latest commercial satellites some level of space surveillance of crops and fields can be achieved. Besides the Big Brother effect, farmers can also benefit from the satellite imagery with increasing detail that become readily available at increasing cadence, writes Tamme van der Wal, scientist at Wageningen University in this article published by Future Farming.

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Dietary Guidelines for Americans: ‘Make every bite count with potatoes’

Potatoes help support the Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ recommendation for increased nutrient-dense vegetable consumption. Says John Toaspern, Potatoes USA Chief Marketing Officer: “It’s official: the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans have yet again confirmed the importance of eating more vegetables such as potatoes that provide potassium and vitamin C. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations focus on increased nutrient-dense vegetable consumption.

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Idaho farmers look ahead after roller-coaster year

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.

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Potato sales and utilization in the US: The ‘what’, ‘where’, and ‘how much’ answered

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.

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Smart farming: The growing role of precision agriculture and biotech

Farming has always involved risk. Risk of pestilence, water shortages or excess, and weather events are only a few of the conditions affecting successful crop growth. Applied nutrients and crop protectors help plants thrive but can result in environmental harm. Given sustainability concerns, growing tomorrow’s food supply is even more fraught with challenges. The good news is that agricultural technology designed to address this growing need is booming. Smart farming technologies are gaining steam, with innovations ranging from seed breeding to seed feeding to the ability to monitor crops and conditions in real time.

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Supply chain sustainability the focus for McCain

Lockdown had led to a sudden shift from a crop shortfall following weather challenges last season to a surplus for potato giant McCain, as it lost 50 per cent of sales overnight. The last 10 years have thrown up multiple climate challenges for potato growers and McCain was looking to help create certainty for farmers and build supply chain resilience. Daniel Metheringham, McCain head of agriculture, said: “This time last year we were sat in the midst of a crop crisis because of weather volatility. When we hit Covid-19, all of a sudden we went from a crop shortfall to a crop surplus.”

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Documentary: Drones, robots, and super sperm – the future of farming

The future of farming: Driverless tractors, drones and robots. How is the agriculture industry changing as digital technology develops? Unmanned tractors controlled via GPS; drones that kill vermin in the fields from above; and highly efficient bull sperm used to produce genetically optimized calves. This is not science fiction. It’s the future of farming, today. “Smart farming” is the agricultural industry’s new buzzword, says the producers of this video by Deutsche Welle Documentary.

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CIP Deputy Director warns of the dire consequences of a ‘crop pandemic’, biodiversity loss

As the impacts of climate change intensify — from water scarcity to raging fires and disease outbreaks — the ability to keep pace with demand for food will increasingly rely on crops adapted to new conditions. To achieve this crop breeders will need the full range of tools at their disposal. So says Oscar Ortiz, Deputy Director General for Research and Development at the International Potato Center (CIP) in Lima, Peru. Ortiz warns that biodiversity loss threatens national security.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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