Potato markets dropped sharply last week, with the GB weekly average price falling by £16.78/t to £184.77/t and the free-market average down by £14.06/t to £252.44/t.

Harvest progress continued to lag about three weeks behind last season, with 32,000ha – or 27% of the crop – cleared by 21 September, said a report by the Potato Council. By the same time last year, 48% of the crop had been lifted and 2012 clearance is now more than 23,000ha below the three-year average.

In the East, harvesters were struggling in dry conditions, but in the West wet soils were severely restricting land work, said the report. Yields were still below average, at 20-60t/ha, with wastage from growth cracks, greens, blackleg and rots.

The slow harvest and a move towards increased storage activity meant packing supplies were generally short, said the report. “Free-buy white supplies are difficult to locate, especially samples with a decent baker content. Packers continue to supplement with material from France, Germany, Spain and the Czech Republic.”

Bagged potatoes were sufficient to meet current light demand, and prices were steady, with chipping varieties fetching £220-300/t in the East. Contracted supplies were dominating the frying market, with limited free-buy Maris Piper at £180/t.

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Harvest woes for potato growers