Potato prices have firmed by £4/t over the past week to a weekly average of £152.24/t. The Potato Council’s free-buy average increased by a similar amount to £149.18/t, with free-buy continuing to account for the majority of trade within the sample.

“Most packers continue to concentrate on moving contracted stocks, leaving a limited and selective free-buy demand for best bold, white samples,” said the Potato Council’s report. “Secondary quality supplies are slow to move.” Grade one Desiree, Romano and Mozart were fetching £150-160/t, with grade one King Edwards ranging from £160-180/t and general pack at £100-150/t.

In the bagged sector demand was slow and buyers selective, which was putting prices under pressure, it added. Chipping Maris Piper in the West were moving at £130-140/t, with Wilja for ware at £130-140. “Stored stocks are generally keeping well although the mild temperatures continue to be detrimental to ambient stores where sprouting remains a concern,” said the report. “Skin finish is also suffering in some samples.”

Early planting of the 2014 crop was under way in Cornwall, with an estimated 160ha planted by 28 February. “The limited plantings before Christmas are through the ground, having small rosettes which are marking the rows.”