What does 2013 hold for UK farming? Farmers Weekly and farm business consultant Andersons have teamed up to provide an outlook. Today we look at potatoes.

The new season trade opened at highs not seen for some years, with open-market produce fetching a fraction under £300/t in mid-November.

However, saleable yields could be 20% down after the wet season, says Andersons director Jay Wootton. “That would possibly leave UK production below 4.5m tonnes.”

Growers are getting crop away, in many cases due to concerns over problems in store, but also to provide a welcome early cash boost to help with cereal harvest shortfalls.

“It is not straightforward. Quality has suffered due to the cold spring, lack of sunshine and continuous rainfall. This has led to low tuber numbers, quality issues, and stores will require detailed management,” says Mr Wootton.

Key points and management advice

  • Smallest crop since 1976
  • Manage stores carefully
  • Review long-term return on capital
  • Budget realistically

“Many growers are going to be disappointed – they need to ask if they are getting a proper long-term return on the capital employed and whether they are prepared to continue growing the crop.

“Processing growers have to take stock of returns with reference to the past two to three years’ experience. Some processors are willing to make reasonable price commitments. This leads to greater long-term balance and should be encouraged.”

Some packing buyers are importing stocks from northern Europe to make up this season’s shortfall, says Mr Wootton. “Such arrangements are likely to remain in place in future seasons. Budget pricing in years to come must not depend on stronger values as the ‘new’ supply will be a factor in markets.”

Commentary based on Andersons’ Outlook 2013

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