Potatoes being harvested© Tim Scrivener

An air of optimism could see a larger area of potatoes grown in 2017.

This could reverse the better balance in the market ­– the low yields in Europe must not be forgotten as a key driver of UK market strength, says Andersons director Jay Wootton.

Following last year’s robust end to the season, it is reported there has been a 4% increase in planted area in 2016, primarily ­– and unsurprisingly ­– in packing varieties.

See also: Potato growers urged not to increase plantings for 2016

This will not quite replace the 8% reduction in the previous year, but current market confidence could help close the gap, he adds.

Business pointers

  • Optimism returning to free-buy sector
  • Contracted growers face more of a challenge
  • Investment in storage and irrigation

“It is obviously too early to call the 2017 market, but the outlook looks promising for the 2016 crop.

“For many, however, the volatility of the free-buy/packing market is unlikely to be relevant. For contracted growers who, weather permitting, largely know their likely income around planting time, it is probably a challenge to be profitable enough to cover the continuing reinvestment required to sustain most large-scale operations.”

Regulatory requirements on CIPC treatment are driving storage investment, although there are a number of ways to approach this, with significantly differing costs, he says.

Investment also continues in the winter storage of irrigation water, with the aim of securing the renewal of irrigation licences, particularly in areas of overlicensing rather than overabstraction, says Mr Wootton.

Farmers Weekly says:

Richard Allison, arable editor 

  • Potato growers saw near-perfect lifting conditions this autumn, although with below-average yields, which have contributed to the 2016 crop being 5% smaller than last year.
  • Looking ahead, the potato industry will continue to face many pressures, including uncertainty over new water licensing rules and pressures from the loss of pesticides.

Andersons Outlook

The Farmers Weekly outlook articles are based on Andersons Outlook 2017. Copies of the full publication can be downloaded from the Andersons website by clicking on ‘Publications & Events’. Alternatively, request a printed copy by telephoning 01664 503 200.

Andersons is running a series of seminars in the spring looking at the prospects for UK agriculture in greater detail.

3 March – RAF Club, Piccadilly, London

7 March – Harper Adams University, Newport, Shropshire

8 March – Westmorland, J36 Auction Centre, Kendal

9 March – Carfraemill Lodge Hotel, Lauder, Berwickshire

10 March – York Racecourse, York, North Yorkshire

14 March – Yew Lodge Hotel, Kegworth Leicestershire

15 March – Perth Racecourse, Perth

17 March – Newmarket Racecourse, Newmarket, Suffolk

21 March – East of England Showground, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

22 March – Salisbury Racecourse, Salisbury, Wiltshire

23 March – Exeter Racecourse, Exeter, Devon

24 March – Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, Gloucestershire

More information please on the Andersons website