By Farmers Weekly

NEW-POTATO prices should hold up well this season, thanks to a steady supply of imports over the next couple of months which will avoid a clash with domestic supplies, says the British Potato Council.

Domestic liftings should also be staggered more than usual, so tonnage will build slowly.

A recent meeting between representatives of major exporters to the UK suggested new imports to the end of July would total 251,000t, similar to last season.

Apart from a slight frost on a few slopes, the Jersey crop, whose area remained stable at 3250ha (8000 acres), is growing well. Planting was completed by mid-March in good conditions.

The crop should produce about 45,000t, 9000t more than last year, and much should be cleared ahead of UK supplies, says Rob Burrow of the BPC. About 1200t had arrived on the mainland by the beginning of this week.

Supplies from Cyprus are also expected to climb from a drought-hit 37,000t last year to 45-50,000t this season. About a quarter should arrive this month, with the rest split equally between May and June.

Israeli exports are forecast to almost double to 30,000t and Brittany should supply about 25,000t, slightly more last year following the loss of the Russian market.

But a 30% reduction in imports from Egypt will largely balance the books. A late start to loading due to the settlement of disease-free areas is likely to see only 40,000t shipped to the UK. Most has now arrived, so the recent ban due to brown rot is unlikely to reduce this. Spanish and Italian crops are also down.

UK liftings should be staggered, says Mr Burrow. “Cornwall was the only region where planting was near normal. Other areas were held up after the wet winter.

“This has created natural planting gaps, which, together with recent frosts which knocked some crops back, will allow volume to build slowly.”

Cornwall is already lifting, though mainly for local markets. Pembroke is expected to start in early May, and much of Kent around the middle of that month or later, after recent frosts. Suffolk should start at the end of May.