By Olivia Cooper

EARLY potato yields this season were the lowest for seven years, the British Potato Council has revealed.

In its first estimate of this years total potato production, early yields were almost 20% down on last year, at 23.9t/ha (9.7t/acre).

Rob Burrow, market information manager for the BPC, blames the lateness of last years harvest, which caused considerable delays in planting of first earlies.

Perhaps more surprising is that maincrop yields, at 44.8t/ha (18t/acre) were the highest since 1997, in spite of the late and variable growing season.

Total production is estimated at 6.41m tonnes. This is 417,000t ahead of last year, and just 0.85% below the four-year average.

Mr Burrow reckons this leaves the UK with fairly balanced supply and demand.

“Prices should remain relatively stable. But although premiums for good quality frying and packing produce are expected to widen throughout the season, dont hold on too long,” he warns.

Poorer quality samples are being forced onto the market at 25/t, while decent Maris Piper and Desireé are worth 100-140/t in the North and Scotland..

The BPC spot average price is slightly firmer at 83.03/t excluding bags.