Potato prices increased by £3.55/t in the three weeks to 6 January, to a GB weekly average of £117.72/t – 29% lower than the same time last year. The free market average fell by £3.30 over the same period, to £93.31/t.

“Trade over the Christmas period was brisk, although the first week of the New Year was steadier with supplies ample,” said a Potato Council report. “Packers have been very selective, with the main interest in good-quality free-buy while conserving their best contracted supplies.”

In the bagged sector, movement was generally slow with customers clearing existing stocks, although there was some restocking activity. “Demand remains centred on the best quality.”

Chipping movement last week was predominantly from contract stocks. “As a result free-buy movement was limited, with Asterix at £50-£55/t, Fontane £40-£50/t, Markies mainly £50/t and Maris Piper £40-£70/t, depending on frying quality.”

Token planting of earlies had started in Cornwall and more planting was expected this week, it added. “Stocks in store are keeping reasonably well, however mild temperatures have been detrimental to keeping quality in ambient stores.” Stocks to the end of November were estimated at 3.5m tonnes, with total supplies pegged at 6.3m tonnes – 1.2% more than last year.