11 January 2002

Cold weather increases spud storage woes

By Andrew Swallow

COLD conditions have added to already widespread storage worries with potatoes this year, says the British Potato Council.

Although the cold spell allowed growers to drop temperatures in ambient stores, halting rot risks, temporary stores may have suffered direct freezing damage, warns market information manager Rob Burrow.

Processing stocks may also have become too cold, risking excess sugar levels.

"Now it has thawed, temperatures could start to rise with the onset of new rotting," says Mr Burrow. He urges growers to check stocks regularly, monitor store temperatures and ventilate when weather permits.

Ironically, those who lifted early have seen most problems. Blight, warm conditions and less than ideal skin set leading to rots forced many to move stocks early.

However, the overall supply situation remains reasonably balanced, with only top quality stocks tight. "The main message with these is steady marketing rather than leaving it all to the end. If everybody does that the price can collapse," he warns.

With about 50ha of mostly Premiere, Rocket and some crisping varieties already planted under cover in Cornwall, the 2002 crop could come early, he adds.

"The south-west has been much milder than the rest of the country so it is possible there could be some quite early movements."

&#8226 Worried about storage? Contact the BPCs free advice line (01406-351621). &#42