BRITAIN‘S POTATO harvest is estimated at about 5.9m tonnes this year, according to the British Potato Council.

It is the lowest estimate since the poor harvest of 1983, although not much worse than last year.

“It is a fairly similar total to last year, but the biggest issue has been quality and there has been quite high wastage,” said the BPC‘s Rob Burrow.

There have been large regional variations in yield and quality, with the West suffering more than the East, he added.

The total area planted is estimated at 130,896ha with the average harvested yield of 45.5t/ha falling by over a tonne/ha on 2003.

The figures are based on the harvested weights of 642 crops, covering 20 different varieties between May and October, and are accurate to 5%.

When the estimate is updated with new test results in January, the total production is expected to come in between 5.65m and 6.25m tonnes.

Mr Burrow said price margins were continuing to widen between high and low quality crops.

“A lot of the quality crop has been put into storage, and buyers are beginning to pay a little bit more to get hold of it,” he explained.

The glut of lower quality potatoes was keeping prices under pressure.

The average price in the week ending Nov 5 was £76.72/t, down 31p on the week before, according to the BPC.

But top quality washed whites were fetching up to £125/t on the wholesale markets, washed reds up to £120/t and coloured ambo as much as £140/t.