By FWi staff

SEED potato prices have plummeted this season as many farmers, faced with low ware prices, put off ordering until they receive contracts from buyers.

Some producers will now not source seed until March when they have decided precisely what, and how much, they will grow, says Ron Reiss of Agrico.

He reckons just 40-50% of budgeted seed sales have been covered, even though seed for varieties like Maris Piper is available for as little as 120/t delivered to farm and could drop further.

Last season, seed potatoes were worth 350-450/t, though some varieties ended up at 500/t when the effect of the poor weather on quality became apparent.

This year, Mr Reiss has been “pleasantly surprised” by the quality. “Dutch seed is also extremely good.”

Free-market varieties such as Maris Piper, Maris Peer, King Edward and Pentland Dell are fetching between 120-150/t, says Mr Reiss.

Steve Crane of Greenvale AP is, by contrast, pleased with the level of enquiries his company has received since Christmas.

And, he adds, although low free-market values which he puts at 120-230/t are mainly due to the depressed ware market, they also reflect quality.

“Growers who think they are buying quality cheaply might be in for a shock,” says Mr Crane.

Prices for controlled varieties such as Estima, Nadine, Saxon and Cara have generally been holding well, with January and February deliveries worth 260-330/t. Popular varieties like Estima and Marfona are limited, he adds.

Mr Crane dismisses speculation that more growers would be using their own seed as a result of lower potato prices this season.

“That rumour goes round every year. I do not envisage it being any different to last year.”

Seed export sales have been good, despite the strong Pound and the good quality of the Dutch competition, with deliveries going to the Mediterranean and North Africa, says Lennie Taylor of the Bennett Group.