Dont give up on processed potatoes
By FARMERS WEEKLY staff
THE British Potato Council has urged farmers to continue growing potatoes for the processing sector despite cheap imports which have flooded into the UK.
Low cost imports may have flooded in, but Continental growers face major problems because they make no money selling abroad, the BPC said.
French, Belgian and Dutch farmers are exporting potatoes to the UK at less than the cost of production, according to BPC analysts.
Imported potatoes selling for 74/t in the UK may have incurred haulage and handling costs of 40/t, delegates at the British Potato 2001 event were told.
But over-production means many Dutch growers would rather receive 34 for their potatoes abroad than sell them at home for stock feed worth 10/t.
Nevertheless, the losses are starting to bite. Earlier this year, Dutch producers warned they could not survive if prices were less than 63/t.
Crop area is 10% down this year and there are growers going out of the crop every day, said BPC chairman David Walker.
Getting Continental growers to understand how much they are losing on processing potatoes is now a key aim for the BPC, he added.
Relationships with processors are already at an all time low. Disgruntled European growers have dumped potatoes at factory gates in frustration.
UK growers must exploit that, said BPC supply chain manager Paul Turner.
Our ability to work with processors is a real strength. We need to work together to take costs out of the entire production chain, he said.
European producers do not have that relationship, they have been growing a commodity and a geared up for that. They cant fine tune production like we can.
It feels rough, but there is an opportunity to catch onto, because this market is expanding.
Processing is set to dominate the potato sector by 2005, forecasts the BPC. It already accounts for 40-45% of the UK market and is growing at 4% per year.
Ensuring that the UK potato crop meets that growing demand is a key goal for the BPC, said the organisations chief executive Nigel Jupe.