8 December 2000

Potato delays pull in imports

RISING UK potato prices due to the worst harvest conditions ever are prompting processors and packers to bring extra crop in from Europe.

A steady marketing policy is advised by the BPC for those with crop in store. "There is a surplus on the Continent and we are already sucking in imports," warns BPCs Rob Burrow.

The average UK all potato price hit £113.60/t on Monday this week, up £7.38/t on last week. Top pre-pack samples are fetching £220/t as buyers react to Dec 1 figures showing only 84% or 121,414ha of the crop lifted.

"1998 was the previous latest year when we had about 12,000ha left at this stage. This year it is 23,000ha, nearly twice as much."

BPCs first crop forecast figure predicts output down 11% on last years 6.843m tonnes. Imports already total 73,000t compared with 11,000t by this time last year and 30,000t in 1998.

Typically, imports are trading at £120/t delivered in bulk. "It has mostly been for processing so far, but more is starting to go into the bag trade and some supermarkets."

Mr Burrow warns growers against holding stocks in store too long. "Our research shows the retail price is not a significant factor at reasonable levels, but if it goes too high there is bound to be an impact on consumption. With so many alternatives available market share will be hard to win back." &#42

SPUDSINTHEMUD

&#8226 16% left to lift.

&#8226 Latest season ever.

&#8226 Imports increasing.