10 May 1996

PMB warns against increased plantings

By Tim Relf

AS POTATO planting draws to a close, the Potato Marketing Board is urging growers to resist making any last-minute increases in their acreages.

With 1995 end-of-season stocks set to be over 0.5m tonnes, the PMB says growers should only expand their area if they have secure markets for the crop.

End of quotas

This follows the end of potato quotas, in the place of which a production guideline of 146,000ha (361,000 acres) has been issued for the 1996 season.

By last Friday (May 3), an estimated 125,567ha (310,276 acres) had been sown. By the same time last year, 140,707ha (347,686 acres) had been planted.

Many seed supplies from Scotland were smaller and contained more tubers a tonne than usual this year, which should go further, says John Anderson of the Scottish Agricultural College.

"If farmers have spent money on expensive seed they will want to use it. The question is whether it will displace home-saved seed or lead to a rise in the overall area planted.

"It is at the lower end of the quality range where expansion should be most resisted," says Mr Anderson. He reckons the final planted area could be 5% more than last year, with increased planting also likely on the Continent.

But the partial collapse in the potato market since the start of the year has served as a timely reminder as to the effects of over-supply on prices.

lGB average prices remained at about £133/t last week. But continued cool weather and lack of moisture is delaying the start of first early liftings, which should extend the demand for old crop and support values. &#42