By FWi staff

RECENT estimates predict that more crops will be left to overwinter this than in any year since 1992, when 8000ha were still in the ground on Christmas Day.

The effects of this have been obvious on the markets, said a spokesman from the British Potato Council.

“Average prices are over twice those of last year, when supplies were in surplus. Sourcing the right supplies by traders and processors remains difficult, and growers continue to look for increased prices,” he said.

Top-quality material still fetches up to £250/t, while bottom prices continue to slip. Late-lifted stocks struggle to achieve any real quality and bottom quotes now start at £60/t. Most sectors remained stable over the week, with many potatoes selling between £130-£1280/t.

Bulk markets were supported by a strong demand for quality material and, despite tension among buyers, some bold samples were pushed to £270/t last week, noted the BPC.

Grade 1 packing did not do so well, as buyers started to resist the growers demand for higher prices. White samples sold at £130-£250/t, with best samples fetching £300/t. Red varieties were £140-£225/t. Top samples are at £250. Piper made £130-£220 up to £330, and whites £130-£250/t up to £300/t. Grade 2 start at £80/t, although most are at about £130/t.

The bag sector saw most resistance from buyers, with frying Piper making up to £240/t. The majority of samples were £130-£160t and £130-£160/t for whites. Reds fetched up to £170/t.

Poor harvests on the Continent, along with large areas of unlifted potatoes in the UK, saw April 1999 contracts soar in London. Prices went as high as £330/t during the week, but had eased by Thursday to £322/t. In Amsterdam futures were up at £286/t.

The BPC weekly ex-farm price rose again last week, climbing £6.58 to £164.45/t. This compares with prices of £74.93/t last year and £52.85/t in 1996.

When removing the processing prices, the ware-only value remains firm at £174.45/t, compared with £70.68/t in 1997.