POTATO GROWERS increased their plantings by almost 5% this year, with early varieties taking a bigger share than in 2003, according to the British Potato Council.

The council also increased its planting estimate by almost 3100ha (7650 acres) compared with its previous forecast at the end of June, to nearly 130,900ha (323,300 acres).

Early plantings totalled 35% of the area, compared with a 33% share last year.

Newer varieties grew in popularity, with Lady Rosetta up by 21% and second early Saxon up by 33%. Maris Piper area was almost unchanged, and Cara and Nicola fell by 12% each.

“The long term trend is still downwards in terms of area,” said the BPC‘s Denis Alder. He reckoned total plantings would fall to just 100,00ha (247,000 acres) by 2015.

“But that‘s balanced by increasing yields.”

Meanwhile, lifting continues apace, with harvest estimated at 20% complete by Fri, Sept 2, compared with 18% at the same time last year.

The BPC weekly average price rose by £2.55/t, to £115.93, compared with £115.02/t in 2003.